Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002/Title III

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Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
Title III—Corporate Responsibility

==TITLE III—CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY==

SEC. 301. PUBLIC COMPANY AUDIT COMMITTEES.[edit]

Section 10A of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 78f) is amended by adding at the end the following:
``(m) STANDARDS RELATING TO AUDIT COMMITTEES—
``(1) COMMISSION RULES—
``(A) IN GENERAL— Effective not later than 270 days after the date of enactment of this subsection, the Commission shall, by rule, direct the national securities exchanges and national securities associations to prohibit the listing of any security of an issuer that is not in compliance with the requirements of any portion of paragraphs (2) through (6).
``(B) OPPORTUNITY TO CURE DEFECTS— The rules of the Commission under subparagraph (A) shall provide for appropriate procedures for an issuer to have an opportunity to cure any defects that would be the basis for a prohibition under subparagraph (A), before the imposition of such prohibition.
``(2) RESPONSIBILITIES RELATING TO REGISTERED PUBLIC ACCOUNTING FIRMS— The audit committee of each issuer, in its capacity as a committee of the board of directors, shall be directly responsible for the appointment, compensation, and oversight of the work of any registered public accounting firm employed by that issuer (including resolution of disagreements between management and the auditor regarding financial reporting) for the purpose of preparing or issuing an audit report or related work, and each such registered public accounting firm shall report directly to the audit committee.
``(3) INDEPENDENCE—
``(A) IN GENERAL— Each member of the audit committee of the issuer shall be a member of the board of directors of the issuer, and shall otherwise be independent.
``(B) CRITERIA— In order to be considered to be independent for purposes of this paragraph, a member of an audit committee of an issuer may not, other than in his or her capacity as a member of the audit committee, the board of directors, or any other board committee—
``(i) accept any consulting, advisory, or other compensatory fee from the issuer; or
``(ii) be an affiliated person of the issuer or any subsidiary thereof.
``(C) EXEMPTION AUTHORITY— The Commission may exempt from the requirements of subparagraph (B) a particular relationship with respect to audit committee members, as the Commission determines appropriate in light of the circumstances.
``(4) COMPLAINTS— Each audit committee shall establish procedures for—
``(A) the receipt, retention, and treatment of complaints received by the issuer regarding accounting, internal accounting controls, or auditing matters; and
``(B) the confidential, anonymous submission by employees of the issuer of concerns regarding questionable accounting or auditing matters.
``(5) AUTHORITY TO ENGAGE ADVISERS— Each audit committee shall have the authority to engage independent counsel and other advisers, as it determines necessary to carry out its duties.
``(6) FUNDING— Each issuer shall provide for appropriate funding, as determined by the audit committee, in its capacity as a committee of the board of directors, for payment of compensation—
``(A) to the registered public accounting firm employed by the issuer for the purpose of rendering or issuing an audit report; and
``(B) to any advisers employed by the audit committee under paragraph (5).´´.

SEC. 302. CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY FOR FINANCIAL REPORTS.[edit]

(a) REGULATIONS REQUIRED—
The Commission shall, by rule, require, for each company filing periodic reports under section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 78m, 78o(d)), that the principal executive officer or officers and the principal financial officer or officers, or persons performing similar functions, certify in each annual or quarterly report filed or submitted under either such section of such Act that—
(1) the signing officer has reviewed the report;
(2) based on the officer's knowledge, the report does not contain any untrue statement of a material fact or omit to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made, in light of the circumstances under which such statements were made, not misleading;
(3) based on such officer's knowledge, the financial statements, and other financial information included in the report, fairly present in all material respects the financial condition and results of operations of the issuer as of, and for, the periods presented in the report;
(4) the signing officers—
(A) are responsible for establishing and maintaining internal controls;
(B) have designed such internal controls to ensure that material information relating to the issuer and its consolidated subsidiaries is made known to such officers by others within those entities, particularly during the period in which the periodic reports are being prepared;
(C) have evaluated the effectiveness of the issuer's internal controls as of a date within 90 days prior to the report; and
(D) have presented in the report their conclusions about the effectiveness of their internal controls based on their evaluation as of that date;
(5) the signing officers have disclosed to the issuer's auditors and the audit committee of the board of directors (or persons fulfilling the equivalent function)—
(A) all significant deficiencies in the design or operation of internal controls which could adversely affect the issuer's ability to record, process, summarize, and report financial data and have identified for the issuer's auditors any material weaknesses in internal controls; and
(B) any fraud, whether or not material, that involves management or other employees who have a significant role in the issuer's internal controls; and
(6) the signing officers have indicated in the report whether or not there were significant changes in internal controls or in other factors that could significantly affect internal controls subsequent to the date of their evaluation, including any corrective actions with regard to significant deficiencies and material weaknesses.
(b) FOREIGN REINCORPORATIONS HAVE NO EFFECT—
Nothing in this section 302 shall be interpreted or applied in any way to allow any issuer to lessen the legal force of the statement required under this section 302, by an issuer having reincorporated or having engaged in any other transaction that resulted in the transfer of the corporate domicile or offices of the issuer from inside the United States to outside of the United States.
(c) DEADLINE—
The rules required by subsection (a) shall be effective not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act.

SEC. 303. IMPROPER INFLUENCE ON CONDUCT OF AUDITS.[edit]

(a) RULES TO PROHIBIT—
It shall be unlawful, in contravention of such rules or regulations as the Commission shall prescribe as necessary and appropriate in the public interest or for the protection of investors, for any officer or director of an issuer, or any other person acting under the direction thereof, to take any action to fraudulently influence, coerce, manipulate, or mislead any independent public or certified accountant engaged in the performance of an audit of the financial statements of that issuer for the purpose of rendering such financial statements materially misleading.
(b) ENFORCEMENT—
In any civil proceeding, the Commission shall have exclusive authority to enforce this section and any rule or regulation issued under this section.
(c) NO PREEMPTION OF OTHER LAW—
The provisions of subsection (a) shall be in addition to, and shall not supersede or preempt, any other provision of law or any rule or regulation issued thereunder.
(d) DEADLINE FOR RULEMAKING—
The Commission shall—
(1) propose the rules or regulations required by this section, not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act; and
(2) issue final rules or regulations required by this section, not later than 270 days after that date of enactment.

SEC. 304. FORFEITURE OF CERTAIN BONUSES AND PROFITS.[edit]

(a) ADDITIONAL COMPENSATION PRIOR TO NONCOMPLIANCE WITH COMMISSION FINANCIAL REPORTING REQUIREMENTS—
If an issuer is required to prepare an accounting restatement due to the material noncompliance of the issuer, as a result of misconduct, with any financial reporting requirement under the securities laws, the chief executive officer and chief financial officer of the issuer shall reimburse the issuer for—
(1) any bonus or other incentive-based or equity-based compensation received by that person from the issuer during the 12-month period following the first public issuance or filing with the Commission (whichever first occurs) of the financial document embodying such financial reporting requirement; and
(2) any profits realized from the sale of securities of the issuer during that 12-month period.
(b) COMMISSION EXEMPTION AUTHORITY—
The Commission may exempt any person from the application of subsection (a), as it deems necessary and appropriate.

SEC. 305. OFFICER AND DIRECTOR BARS AND PENALTIES.[edit]

(a) UNFITNESS STANDARD—
(1) SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934—
Section 21(d)(2) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 78u(d)(2)) is amended by striking ``substantial unfitness´´ and inserting ``unfitness´´.
(2) SECURITIES ACT OF 1933—
Section 20(e) of the Securities Act of 1933 (15 U.S.C. 77t(e)) is amended by striking ``substantial unfitness´´ and inserting ``unfitness´´.
(b) EQUITABLE RELIEF—
Section 21(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 78u(d)) is amended by adding at the end the following:
``(5) EQUITABLE RELIEF— In any action or proceeding brought or instituted by the Commission under any provision of the securities laws, the Commission may seek, and any Federal court may grant, any equitable relief that may be appropriate or necessary for the benefit of investors.´´.

SEC. 306. INSIDER TRADES DURING PENSION FUND BLACKOUT PERIODS.[edit]

(a) PROHIBITION OF INSIDER TRADING DURING PENSION FUND BLACKOUT PERIODS—
(1) IN GENERAL—
Except to the extent otherwise provided by rule of the Commission pursuant to paragraph (3), it shall be unlawful for any director or executive officer of an issuer of any equity security (other than an exempted security), directly or indirectly, to purchase, sell, or otherwise acquire or transfer any equity security of the issuer (other than an exempted security) during any blackout period with respect to such equity security if such director or officer acquires such equity security in connection with his or her service or employment as a director or executive officer.
(2) REMEDY—
(A) IN GENERAL—
Any profit realized by a director or executive officer referred to in paragraph (1) from any purchase, sale, or other acquisition or transfer in violation of this subsection shall inure to and be recoverable by the issuer, irrespective of any intention on the part of such director or executive officer in entering into the transaction.
(B) ACTIONS TO RECOVER PROFITS—
An action to recover profits in accordance with this subsection may be instituted at law or in equity in any court of competent jurisdiction by the issuer, or by the owner of any security of the issuer in the name and in behalf of the issuer if the issuer fails or refuses to bring such action within 60 days after the date of request, or fails diligently to prosecute the action thereafter, except that no such suit shall be brought more than 2 years after the date on which such profit was realized.
(3) RULEMAKING AUTHORIZED—
The Commission shall, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, issue rules to clarify the application of this subsection and to prevent evasion thereof. Such rules shall provide for the application of the requirements of paragraph (1) with respect to entities treated as a single employer with respect to an issuer under section 414(b), (c), (m), or (o) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to the extent necessary to clarify the application of such requirements and to prevent evasion thereof. Such rules may also provide for appropriate exceptions from the requirements of this subsection, including exceptions for purchases pursuant to an automatic dividend reinvestment program or purchases or sales made pursuant to an advance election.
(4) BLACKOUT PERIOD—
For purposes of this subsection, the term ``blackout period´´, with respect to the equity securities of any issuer—
(A) means any period of more than 3 consecutive business days during which the ability of not fewer than 50 percent of the participants or beneficiaries under all individual account plans maintained by the issuer to purchase, sell, or otherwise acquire or transfer an interest in any equity of such issuer held in such an individual account plan is temporarily suspended by the issuer or by a fiduciary of the plan; and
(B) does not include, under regulations which shall be prescribed by the Commission—
(i) a regularly scheduled period in which the participants and beneficiaries may not purchase, sell, or otherwise acquire or transfer an interest in any equity of such issuer, if such period is—
(I) incorporated into the individual account plan; and
(II) timely disclosed to employees before becoming participants under the individual account plan or as a subsequent amendment to the plan; or
(ii) any suspension described in subparagraph (A) that is imposed solely in connection with persons becoming participants or beneficiaries, or ceasing to be participants or beneficiaries, in an individual account plan by reason of a corporate merger, acquisition, divestiture, or similar transaction involving the plan or plan sponsor.
(5) INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNT PLAN—
For purposes of this subsection, the term ``individual account plan´´ has the meaning provided in section 3(34) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (29 U.S.C. 1002(34), except that such term shall not include a one-participant retirement plan (within the meaning of section 101(i)(8)(B) of such Act (29 U.S.C. 1021(i)(8)(B))).
(6) NOTICE TO DIRECTORS, EXECUTIVE OFFICERS, AND THE COMMISSION—
In any case in which a director or executive officer is subject to the requirements of this subsection in connection with a blackout period (as defined in paragraph (4)) with respect to any equity securities, the issuer of such equity securities shall timely notify such director or officer and the Securities and Exchange Commission of such blackout period.
(b) NOTICE REQUIREMENTS TO PARTICIPANTS AND BENEFICIARIES UNDER ERISA—
(1) IN GENERAL—
Section 101 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (29 U.S.C. 1021) is amended by redesignating the second subsection (h) as subsection (j), and by inserting after the first subsection (h) the following new subsection:
``(i) NOTICE OF BLACKOUT PERIODS TO PARTICIPANT OR BENEFICIARY UNDER INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNT PLAN—
``(1) DUTIES OF PLAN ADMINISTRATOR— In advance of the commencement of any blackout period with respect to an individual account plan, the plan administrator shall notify the plan participants and beneficiaries who are affected by such action in accordance with this subsection.
``(2) NOTICE REQUIREMENTS—
``(A) IN GENERAL— The notices described in paragraph (1) shall be written in a manner calculated to be understood by the average plan participant and shall include—
``(i) the reasons for the blackout period,
``(ii) an identification of the investments and other rights affected,
``(iii) the expected beginning date and length of the blackout period,
``(iv) in the case of investments affected, a statement that the participant or beneficiary should evaluate the appropriateness of their current investment decisions in light of their inability to direct or diversify assets credited to their accounts during the blackout period, and
``(v) such other matters as the Secretary may require by regulation.
``(B) NOTICE TO PARTICIPANTS AND BENEFICIARIES— Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, notices described in paragraph (1) shall be furnished to all participants and beneficiaries under the plan to whom the blackout period applies at least 30 days in advance of the blackout period.
``(C) EXCEPTION TO 30-DAY NOTICE REQUIREMENT— In any case in which—
``(i) a deferral of the blackout period would violate the requirements of subparagraph (A) or (B) of section 404(a)(1), and a fiduciary of the plan reasonably so determines in writing, or
``(ii) the inability to provide the 30-day advance notice is due to events that were unforeseeable or circumstances beyond the reasonable control of the plan administrator, and a fiduciary of the plan reasonably so determines in writing,
``subparagraph (B) shall not apply, and the notice shall be furnished to all participants and beneficiaries under the plan to whom the blackout period applies as soon as reasonably possible under the circumstances unless such a notice in advance of the termination of the blackout period is impracticable.
``(D) WRITTEN NOTICE— The notice required to be provided under this subsection shall be in writing, except that such notice may be in electronic or other form to the extent that such form is reasonably accessible to the recipient.
``(E) NOTICE TO ISSUERS OF EMPLOYER SECURITIES SUBJECT TO BLACKOUT PERIOD— In the case of any blackout period in connection with an individual account plan, the plan administrator shall provide timely notice of such blackout period to the issuer of any employer securities subject to such blackout period.
``(3) EXCEPTION FOR BLACKOUT PERIODS WITH LIMITED APPLICABILITY— In any case in which the blackout period applies only to 1 or more participants or beneficiaries in connection with a merger, acquisition, divestiture, or similar transaction involving the plan or plan sponsor and occurs solely in connection with becoming or ceasing to be a participant or beneficiary under the plan by reason of such merger, acquisition, divestiture, or transaction, the requirement of this subsection that the notice be provided to all participants and beneficiaries shall be treated as met if the notice required under paragraph (1) is provided to such participants or beneficiaries to whom the blackout period applies as soon as reasonably practicable.
``(4) CHANGES IN LENGTH OF BLACKOUT PERIOD— If, following the furnishing of the notice pursuant to this subsection, there is a change in the beginning date or length of the blackout period (specified in such notice pursuant to paragraph (2)(A)(iii)), the administrator shall provide affected participants and beneficiaries notice of the change as soon as reasonably practicable. In relation to the extended blackout period, such notice shall meet the requirements of paragraph (2)(D) and shall specify any material change in the matters referred to in clauses (i) through (v) of paragraph (2)(A).
``(5) REGULATORY EXCEPTIONS— The Secretary may provide by regulation for additional exceptions to the requirements of this subsection which the Secretary determines are in the interests of participants and beneficiaries.
``(6) GUIDANCE AND MODEL NOTICES— The Secretary shall issue guidance and model notices which meet the requirements of this subsection.
``(7) BLACKOUT PERIOD— For purposes of this subsection—
``(A) IN GENERAL— The term ``blackout period´´ means, in connection with an individual account plan, any period for which any ability of participants or beneficiaries under the plan, which is otherwise available under the terms of such plan, to direct or diversify assets credited to their accounts, to obtain loans from the plan, or to obtain distributions from the plan is temporarily suspended, limited, or restricted, if such suspension, limitation, or restriction is for any period of more than 3 consecutive business days.
``(B) EXCLUSIONS— The term ``blackout period´´ does not include a suspension, limitation, or restriction—
``(i) which occurs by reason of the application of the securities laws (as defined in section 3(a)(47) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934),
``(ii) which is a change to the plan which provides for a regularly scheduled suspension, limitation, or restriction which is disclosed to participants or beneficiaries through any summary of material modifications, any materials describing specific investment alternatives under the plan, or any changes thereto, or
``(iii) which applies only to 1 or more individuals, each of whom is the participant, an alternate payee (as defined in section 206(d)(3)(K)), or any other beneficiary pursuant to a qualified domestic relations order (as defined in section 206(d)(3)(B)(i)).
``(8) INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNT PLAN—
``(A) IN GENERAL— For purposes of this subsection, the term ``individual account plan´´ shall have the meaning provided such term in section 3(34), except that such term shall not include a one-participant retirement plan.
``(B) ONE-PARTICIPANT RETIREMENT PLAN— For purposes of subparagraph (A), the term ``one-participant retirement plan´´ means a retirement plan that—
``(i) on the first day of the plan year—
``(I) covered only the employer (and the employer's spouse) and the employer owned the entire business (whether or not incorporated), or
``(II) covered only one or more partners (and their spouses) in a business partnership (including partners in an S or C corporation (as defined in section 1361(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986)),
``(ii) meets the minimum coverage requirements of section 410(b) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (as in effect on the date of the enactment of this paragraph) without being combined with any other plan of the business that covers the employees of the business,
``(iii) does not provide benefits to anyone except the employer (and the employer's spouse) or the partners (and their spouses),
``(iv) does not cover a business that is a member of an affiliated service group, a controlled group of corporations, or a group of businesses under common control, and
``(v) does not cover a business that leases employees.´´.
(2) ISSUANCE OF INITIAL GUIDANCE AND MODEL NOTICE—
The Secretary of Labor shall issue initial guidance and a model notice pursuant to section 101(i)(6) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (as added by this subsection) not later than January 1, 2003. Not later than 75 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall promulgate interim final rules necessary to carry out the amendments made by this subsection.
(3) CIVIL PENALTIES FOR FAILURE TO PROVIDE NOTICE—
Section 502 of such Act (29 U.S.C. 1132) is amended—
(A) in subsection (a)(6), by striking ``(5), or (6)´´ and inserting ``(5), (6), or (7)´´;
(B) by redesignating paragraph (7) of subsection (c) as paragraph (8); and
(C) by inserting after paragraph (6) of subsection (c) the following new paragraph:
``(7) The Secretary may assess a civil penalty against a plan administrator of up to $100 a day from the date of the plan administrator's failure or refusal to provide notice to participants and beneficiaries in accordance with section 101(i). For purposes of this paragraph, each violation with respect to any single participant or beneficiary shall be treated as a separate violation.´´.
(3) PLAN AMENDMENTS—
If any amendment made by this subsection requires an amendment to any plan, such plan amendment shall not be required to be made before the first plan year beginning on or after the effective date of this section, if—
(A) during the period after such amendment made by this subsection takes effect and before such first plan year, the plan is operated in good faith compliance with the requirements of such amendment made by this subsection, and
(B) such plan amendment applies retroactively to the period after such amendment made by this subsection takes effect and before such first plan year.
(c) EFFECTIVE DATE—
The provisions of this section (including the amendments made thereby) shall take effect 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act. Good faith compliance with the requirements of such provisions in advance of the issuance of applicable regulations thereunder shall be treated as compliance with such provisions.

SEC. 307. RULES OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR ATTORNEYS.[edit]

Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Commission shall issue rules, in the public interest and for the protection of investors, setting forth minimum standards of professional conduct for attorneys appearing and practicing before the Commission in any way in the representation of issuers, including a rule—
(1) requiring an attorney to report evidence of a material violation of securities law or breach of fiduciary duty or similar violation by the company or any agent thereof, to the chief legal counsel or the chief executive officer of the company (or the equivalent thereof); and
(2) if the counsel or officer does not appropriately respond to the evidence (adopting, as necessary, appropriate remedial measures or sanctions with respect to the violation), requiring the attorney to report the evidence to the audit committee of the board of directors of the issuer or to another committee of the board of directors comprised solely of directors not employed directly or indirectly by the issuer, or to the board of directors.

SEC. 308. FAIR FUNDS FOR INVESTORS.[edit]

(a) CIVIL PENALTIES ADDED TO DISGORGEMENT FUNDS FOR THE RELIEF OF VICTIMS—
If in any judicial or administrative action brought by the Commission under the securities laws (as such term is defined in section 3(a)(47) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 78c(a)(47)) the Commission obtains an order requiring disgorgement against any person for a violation of such laws or the rules or regulations thereunder, or such person agrees in settlement of any such action to such disgorgement, and the Commission also obtains pursuant to such laws a civil penalty against such person, the amount of such civil penalty shall, on the motion or at the direction of the Commission, be added to and become part of the disgorgement fund for the benefit of the victims of such violation.
(b) ACCEPTANCE OF ADDITIONAL DONATIONS—
The Commission is authorized to accept, hold, administer, and utilize gifts, bequests and devises of property, both real and personal, to the United States for a disgorgement fund described in subsection (a). Such gifts, bequests, and devises of money and proceeds from sales of other property received as gifts, bequests, or devises shall be deposited in the disgorgement fund and shall be available for allocation in accordance with subsection (a).
(c) STUDY REQUIRED—
(1) SUBJECT OF STUDY—
The Commission shall review and analyze—
(A) enforcement actions by the Commission over the five years preceding the date of the enactment of this Act that have included proceedings to obtain civil penalties or disgorgements to identify areas where such proceedings may be utilized to efficiently, effectively, and fairly provide restitution for injured investors; and
(B) other methods to more efficiently, effectively, and fairly provide restitution to injured investors, including methods to improve the collection rates for civil penalties and disgorgements.
(2) REPORT REQUIRED—
The Commission shall report its findings to the Committee on Financial Services of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate within 180 days after of the date of the enactment of this Act, and shall use such findings to revise its rules and regulations as necessary. The report shall include a discussion of regulatory or legislative actions that are recommended or that may be necessary to address concerns identified in the study.
(d) CONFORMING AMENDMENTS—
Each of the following provisions is amended by inserting ``, except as otherwise provided in section 308 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002´´ after ``Treasury of the United States´´:
(1) Section 21(d)(3)(C)(i) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. 78u(d)(3)(C)(i)).
(2) Section 21A(d)(1) of such Act (15 U.S.C. 78u-1(d)(1)).
(3) Section 20(d)(3)(A) of the Securities Act of 1933 (15 U.S.C. 77t(d)(3)(A)).
(4) Section 42(e)(3)(A) of the Investment Company Act of 1940 (15 U.S.C. 80a-41(e)(3)(A)).
(5) Section 209(e)(3)(A) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (15 U.S.C. 80b-9(e)(3)(A)).
(e) DEFINITION—
As used in this section, the term ``disgorgement fund´´ means a fund established in any administrative or judicial proceeding described in subsection (a).