View this document in context in the NYSE Listed Company Manual:
Listed companies must adopt and disclose a code of business conduct and ethics for directors, officers and employees, and promptly disclose any waivers of the code for directors or executive officers.
Commentary: No code of business conduct and ethics can replace the thoughtful behavior of an ethical director, officer or employee. However, such a code can focus the board and management on areas of ethical risk, provide guidance to personnel to help them recognize and deal with ethical issues, provide mechanisms to report unethical conduct, and help to foster a culture of honesty and accountability.
Each code of business conduct and ethics must require that any waiver of the code for executive officers or directors may be made only by the board or a board committee.
Each code of business conduct and ethics must also contain compliance standards and procedures that will facilitate the effective operation of the code. These standards should ensure the prompt and consistent action against violations of the code.
Each listed company may determine its own policies, but all listed companies should address the most important topics, including the following:
Conflicts of interest. A "conflict of interest" occurs when an individual's private interest interferes in any way - or even appears to interfere - with the interests of the corporation as a whole. A conflict situation can arise when an employee, officer or director takes actions or has interests that may make it difficult to perform his or her company work objectively and effectively. Conflicts of interest also arise when an employee, officer or director, or a member of his or her family, receives improper personal benefits as a result of his or her position in the company. Loans to, or guarantees of obligations of, such persons are of special concern. The listed company should have a policy prohibiting such conflicts of interest, and providing a means for employees, officers and directors to communicate potential conflicts to the listed company.
Corporate opportunities. Employees, officers and directors should be prohibited from (a) taking for themselves personally opportunities that are discovered through the use of corporate property, information or position; (b) using corporate property, information, or position for personal gain; and (c) competing with the company. Employees, officers and directors owe a duty to the company to advance its legitimate interests when the opportunity to do so arises.
Confidentiality. Employees, officers and directors should maintain the confidentiality of information entrusted to them by the listed company or its customers, except when disclosure is authorized or legally mandated. Confidential information includes all non-public information that might be of use to competitors, or harmful to the company or its customers, if disclosed.
Fair dealing. Each employee, officer and director should endeavor to deal fairly with the listed company's customers, suppliers, competitors and employees. None should take unfair advantage of anyone through manipulation, concealment, abuse of privileged information, misrepresentation of material facts, or any other unfair-dealing practice. Listed companies may write their codes in a manner that does not alter existing legal rights and obligations of companies and their employees, such as "at will" employment arrangements.
Protection and proper use of listed company assets. All employees, officers and directors should protect the listed company's assets and ensure their efficient use. Theft, carelessness and waste have a direct impact on the listed company's profitability. All listed company assets should be used for legitimate business purposes.
Compliance with laws, rules and regulations (including insider trading laws). The listed company should proactively promote compliance with laws, rules and regulations, including insider trading laws. Insider trading is both unethical and illegal, and should be dealt with decisively.
Encouraging the reporting of any illegal or unethical behavior. The listed company should proactively promote ethical behavior. The listed company should encourage employees to talk to supervisors, managers or other appropriate personnel when in doubt about the best course of action in a particular situation. Additionally, employees should report violations of laws, rules, regulations or the code of business conduct to appropriate personnel. To encourage employees to report such violations, the listed company must ensure that employees know that the listed company will not allow retaliation for reports made in good faith.
Website Posting Requirement: A listed company must make its code of business conduct and ethics available on or through its website.
Disclosure Requirements: A listed company must disclose in its annual proxy statement or, if it does not file an annual proxy statement, in its annual report on Form 10-K filed with the SEC that its code of business conduct and ethics is available on or through its website and provide the website address.
To the extent that a listed company's board or a board committee determines to grant any waiver of the code of business conduct and ethics for an executive officer or director, the waiver must be disclosed to shareholders within four business days of such determination. Disclosure must be made by distributing a press release, providing website disclosure, or by filing a current report on Form 8-K with the SEC.
Amended: November 25, 2009 (NYSE-2009-89).