Proposal 2: Ratification of Selection of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm
The Audit Committee evaluates the selection of independent auditors each year and has selected Ernst & Young LLP as our independent registered public accounting firm for the current year. Ernst & Young has served in this role since Intel was incorporated in 1968. The Audit Committee concluded that many factors contribute to the continued support of Ernst & Young’s independence, such as the oversight of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) through the establishment of audit, quality, ethics, and independence standards in addition to conducting audit inspections; the mandating of reports on internal control over financial reporting; PCAOB requirements for audit partner rotation; and limitations imposed by regulation and by the Audit Committee on non-audit services provided by Ernst & Young. The Audit Committee has established, and monitors, limits on the amount of non-audit services that Intel may obtain from Ernst & Young.
In accordance with applicable rules on partner rotation, Ernst & Young’s primary engagement partner for our audit was changed for 2015, while Ernst & Young’s concurring/reviewing partner for our audit was most recently changed in 2014. The Audit Committee is involved in considering the selection of Ernst & Young’s primary engagement partner when there is a rotation. Under the auditor independence rules, Ernst & Young reviews its independence each year and delivers to the Audit Committee a letter addressing matters prescribed under those rules. The Audit Committee considers a number of factors in deciding whether to re-engage Ernst & Young as the independent registered public accounting firm, including the length of time the firm has served in this role and an assessment of the firm’s professional qualifications and resources. In this regard, the Audit Committee considered that Intel requires global, standardized, and well-coordinated services, not only for audit purposes, but for other non-audit services items, including statutory audits and various regulatory certification items, such as valuation support, IT consulting, and payroll services. Many of these services are provided to Intel by other multinational audit and accounting firms. A change in our independent auditor would require us to replace one or more of the multinational service providers that perform non-audit services for Intel and could significantly disrupt our business due to loss of cumulative knowledge in the service providers’ areas of expertise.
As a matter of good corporate governance, the Board submits the selection of the independent audit firm to our stockholders for ratification. If the selection of Ernst & Young is not ratified by a majority of the shares of common stock present or represented during the annual meeting and entitled to vote on the matter, the Audit Committee will review its future selection of an independent registered public accounting firm in light of that vote result. Even if the selection is ratified, the Audit Committee in its discretion may appoint a different registered public accounting firm at any time during the year if the committee determines that such change would be appropriate.
Representatives of Ernst & Young attended all meetings of the Audit Committee in 2016 except those meetings specifically related to litigation and subject to attorney-client privilege. The Audit Committee pre-approves and reviews audit and non-audit services performed by Ernst & Young as well as the fees charged by Ernst & Young for such services. In its pre-approval and review of non-audit service fees, the Audit Committee considers, among other factors, the possible effect of the performance of such services on the auditors’ independence. For additional information concerning the Audit Committee and its activities with Ernst & Young, see “Corporate Governance” and “Report of the Audit Committee” in this proxy statement. We expect that a representative of Ernst & Young will attend the annual meeting, and the representative will have an opportunity to make a statement if he or she so chooses. The representative will also be available to respond to appropriate questions from stockholders.
Ernst & Young LLP’s Fees for 2016 and 2015
The following table shows the fees billed by Ernst & Young for audit and other services provided for fiscal years 2016 and 2015. All figures are net of Value Added Tax and other similar taxes assessed by non-U.S. jurisdictions on the amount billed by Ernst & Young. All of the services reflected in the following fee table were approved in conformity with the Audit Committee’s pre-approval process, as described in the “Report of the Audit Committee” in this proxy statement.
Audit Services. This category includes Ernst & Young’s audit of our annual financial statements and internal control over financial reporting, review of financial statements included in our Form 10-Q quarterly reports, and services that are typically provided by the independent registered public accounting firm in connection with statutory and regulatory filings or engagements for those fiscal years. This category also includes statutory audits required by non-U.S. jurisdictions; consultation and advice on new accounting pronouncements, and technical advice on various accounting matters related to the consolidated financial statements or statutory financial statements that are required to be filed by non-U.S. jurisdictions; comfort letters; and consents issued in connection with SEC filings or private placement documents.
Audit-Related Services. This category consists of assurance and related services provided by Ernst & Young that are reasonably related to the performance of the audit or review of our financial statements, and are not included in the fees reported in the table above under “Audit Services.” The services for the fees disclosed under this category primarily include audits of Intel employee benefit plans.
Tax Services. This category consists of tax services provided with respect to tax consulting, tax compliance, tax audit assistance, tax planning, expatriate tax services, and transfer pricing.
All Other Services. This category consists of services provided by Ernst & Young that are not included in the category descriptions defined above under “Audit Services,” “Audit-Related Services,” or “Tax Services.”
RECOMMENDATION OF THE BOARD
The Board of Directors recommends that you vote “FOR” the ratification of the selection of Ernst & Young as our independent registered public accounting firm for 2017.
Report of the Audit Committee
During 2016, four non-management directors comprised the Audit Committee. The Board determined that each member of the Audit Committee is independent under the NASDAQ listing standards. The Audit Committee operates under a written charter adopted by the Board. As described more fully in its charter, the purpose of the Audit Committee is to assist the Board in its general oversight of Intel’s financial reporting, internal controls, and audit functions. Management is responsible for the preparation, presentation, and integrity of Intel’s financial statements; accounting and financial reporting principles; internal controls; and procedures designed to reasonably assure compliance with accounting standards, applicable laws, and regulations. Intel has a full-time Internal Audit department that reports to the Audit Committee and to management. This department is responsible for objectively reviewing and evaluating the adequacy, effectiveness, and quality of Intel’s system of internal controls related to, for example, the reliability and integrity of Intel’s financial information and the safeguarding of Intel’s assets.
Ernst & Young LLP, Intel’s independent registered public accounting firm, is responsible for performing an independent audit of Intel’s consolidated financial statements in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards and expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of Intel’s internal control over financial reporting. In accordance with law, the Audit Committee has ultimate authority and responsibility for selecting, compensating, evaluating, and, when appropriate, replacing Intel’s independent audit firm, and evaluates its independence. The Audit Committee has the authority to engage its own outside advisors, including experts in particular areas of accounting, as it determines appropriate, apart from counsel or advisors hired by management.
Audit Committee members are not professional accountants or auditors, and their functions are not intended to duplicate or to certify the activities of management and the independent audit firm; nor can the Audit Committee certify that the independent audit firm is “independent” under applicable rules. The Audit Committee serves a Board-level oversight role in which it provides advice, counsel, and direction to management and to the auditors on the basis of the information it receives, discussions with management and the auditors, and the experience of the Audit Committee’s members in business, financial, and accounting matters.
The Audit Committee’s agenda for the year includes reviewing Intel’s financial statements, internal control over financial reporting, and audit and other matters. The Audit Committee meets each quarter with Ernst & Young, Intel’s Chief Audit Executive, and management to review Intel’s interim financial results before the publication of Intel’s quarterly earnings news releases. Management’s and the independent audit firm’s presentations to, and discussions with, the Audit Committee cover various topics and events that may have significant financial impact or are the subject of discussions between management and the independent audit firm. The Audit Committee reviews and discusses with management and the Chief Audit Executive Intel’s major financial risk exposures and the steps that management has taken to monitor and control such exposures. In accordance with law, the Audit Committee is responsible for establishing procedures for the receipt, retention, and treatment of complaints received by Intel regarding accounting, internal accounting controls, or auditing matters, including confidential, anonymous submission by Intel’s employees, received through established procedures, of any concerns regarding questionable accounting or auditing matters.
Among other matters, the Audit Committee monitors the activities and performance of Intel’s internal auditors and independent registered public accounting firm, including the audit scope, external audit fees, auditor independence matters, and the extent to which the independent audit firm can be retained to perform non-audit services.
In accordance with Audit Committee policy and the requirements of law, the Audit Committee pre-approves all services to be provided by Ernst & Young. Pre-approval includes audit services, audit-related services, tax services, and other services. In some cases, the full Audit Committee provides pre-approval for as long as a year related to a particular category of service, or a particular defined scope of work subject to a specific budget. In other cases, the chair of the Audit Committee has the delegated authority from the Audit Committee to pre-approve additional services, and the chair then communicates such pre-approvals to the full Audit Committee. The Audit Committee is responsible for overseeing the fee negotiations associated with the retention of our independent auditor. The Audit Committee believes that the continued retention of Ernst & Young as our independent auditor is in the best interests of our stockholders.
The Audit Committee has reviewed and discussed with management its assessment of and report on the effectiveness of Intel’s internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2016, which it made based on criteria established in Internal Control—Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (2013 framework). The Audit Committee also has reviewed and discussed with Ernst & Young its review and report on Intel’s internal control over financial reporting. Intel published these reports in its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2016, which Intel filed with the SEC on February 17, 2017.
The Audit Committee has reviewed and discussed the audited financial statements for fiscal year 2016 with management and Ernst & Young, and management represented to the Audit Committee that Intel’s audited financial statements were prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). In addition, the Audit Committee has discussed with Ernst & Young, and Ernst & Young represented that its presentations to the Audit Committee included, the matters required to be discussed with the independent registered public accounting firm by applicable PCAOB rules regarding “Communication with Audit Committees.” This review included a discussion with management of the quality, not merely the acceptability, of Intel’s accounting principles, the reasonableness of significant estimates and judgments, and the clarity of disclosure in Intel’s financial statements, including the disclosures related to critical accounting estimates. Intel’s independent audit firm has provided the Audit Committee with the written disclosures and the letter required by the PCAOB regarding the independent accountant’s communications with the Audit Committee concerning independence, and the Audit Committee has discussed with the independent audit firm and management that firm’s independence.
In reliance on these reviews and discussions, and the reports of Ernst & Young, the Audit Committee has recommended to the Board, and the Board has approved, the inclusion of the audited financial statements in Intel’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2016.
Frank D. Yeary, Chairman
Reed E. Hundt
Tsu-Jae King Liu
James D. Plummer