THIS EMPLOYMENT AGREEMENT (the Agreement) entered into as of June 11, 2017 (the Effective Date), between Aspen Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation (the Company), and Cheri St. Arnauld, Ed. D (the Executive).
WHEREAS, in its business, the Company has acquired and developed certain trade secrets, including, but not limited to, academic curriculum processes and proceedings proprietary processes, sales methods and techniques, and other like confidential business and technical information, including but not limited to, technical information, design systems, pricing methods, pricing rates or discounts, processes, procedures, formulas, designs of computer software, or improvements, or any portion or phase thereof, whether patented, or not, or unpatentable, that is of any value whatsoever to the Company, as well as information relating to the Companys Services (as defined), information concerning proposed new Services, market feasibility studies, proposed or existing marketing techniques or plans (whether developed or produced by the Company or by any other person or entity for the Company), other Confidential Information, as defined in Section 9(a), and information about the Companys executives, officers, and directors, which necessarily will be communicated to the Executive by reason of her employment by the Company; and
WHEREAS, the Company has strong and legitimate business interests in preserving and protecting its investment in the Executive, its trade secrets and Confidential Information, and its substantial, significant, or key relationships with vendors and Students, as defined below, whether actual or prospective; and
WHEREAS, the Company desires to preserve and protect its legitimate business interests further by restricting competitive activities of the Executive during the term of this Agreement and for a reasonable time following the termination of this Agreement; and
WHEREAS, the Executive has a substantial employment, educational and experience background in the areas of expertise desired by the Company and will retain ownership and the right to use all prior-gained skills, insights, techniques and abilities which the Executive brings to this employment and nothing in this agreement will obligate the Executive to forfeit that or the right to make a living by use of these pre-developed abilities; and
WHEREAS, the Company desires to employ the Executive and to ensure the continued availability to the Company of the Executives services, and the Executive is willing to accept such employment and render such services, all upon and subject to the terms and conditions contained in this Agreement; and
WHEREAS, the Company represents to the Executive that it is and expects to be sufficiently financially solvent to meet the payment promises and obligations made to the Executive as set forth in this Agreement and understands that the Executive is relying on this representation in entering into this Agreement and her promises to the Company:
NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the premises and the mutual covenants set forth in this Agreement, and intending to be legally bound, the Company and the Executive agree as follows:
Representations and Warranties. The Executive hereby represents and warrants to the Company that she (i) is not subject to any non-solicitation or non-competition agreement affecting her employment with the Company (other than any prior agreement with the Company or an affiliate of the Company), (ii) is not subject to any confidentiality or nonuse/nondisclosure agreement affecting her employment with the Company (other than any prior agreement with the Company or an affiliate of the Company), and (iii) has brought to the Company no trade secrets, confidential business information, documents, or other personal property of a prior employer. The recitals above are incorporated in this Agreement as representations and covenants. Each party covenants to act in good faith in the discharge of this Agreement. This Agreement replaces the Employment Agreement, as amended, between Aspen University Inc. and the Executive.
Term of Employment.
Term. The Company hereby employs the Executive, and the Executive hereby accepts employment with the Company for a period of three years commencing as of the Effective Date (such period, as it may be extended or renewed, the Term), unless sooner terminated in accordance with the provisions of Section 6. The Term shall be automatically renewed for successive one-year terms unless notice of non-renewal is given by either party at least 30 days before the end of the Term.
Continuing Effect. Notwithstanding any termination of this Agreement, at the end of the Term or otherwise, the provisions of Sections 6(e), 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15, 18, 19, and 22 shall remain in full force and effect and the provisions of Section 9 shall be binding upon the legal representatives, successors and assigns of the Executive.
General Duties. The Executive shall serve as the Chief Academic Officer of the Company, with duties and responsibilities that are customary for such an executive. The Executive shall report to the Companys Chief Executive Officer. The Executive shall also perform services for subsidiaries and affiliates of the Company as may be necessary. The Executive shall use her best efforts to perform her duties and discharge her responsibilities pursuant to this Agreement competently, carefully and faithfully. In determining whether or not the Executive has used her best efforts hereunder, the Executives and the Companys delegation of authority and all surrounding circumstances shall be taken into account and the best efforts of the Executive shall not be judged solely on the Companys earnings or other results of the Executives performance, except as specifically provided to the contrary by this Agreement, and the determination shall in any event be reasonable and shall not be made arbitrarily or capriciously by Company. The Executive shall, if requested, serve as an officer of any subsidiaries of the Company.
Devotion of Time. Subject to the last sentence of this Section 3(b), the Executive shall devote her full time, attention and energies to the affairs of the Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates as are necessary to perform her duties and responsibilities pursuant to this Agreement. The Executive shall have reasonable off-hours and off-duty times for personal use. The Executive shall not enter the employ of or serve as a consultant to, or in any way perform any services with or without compensation to, any other persons, business, or organization, without the prior consent of the Board of Directors of the Company (the Board). Notwithstanding the above, the Executive shall be permitted to devote a limited amount of her time, to rest and to Executives personal, professional, charitable or similar pursuits and interests and to organizations, including serving as a non-executive director or an advisor to a board of directors, committee of any company or organization and the Executive shall have the right to continue the following personal pursuits to complete currently contracted work with students as well as agreements around her newly published book.
Location of Office. The Executives principal business office shall be in Scottsdale, Arizona; provided, however, that for an initial term in the discretion of the Board and estimated to be three months from the date hereof, the Executive shall work remotely from San Diego, California for purposes of supporting the Companys acquisition of United States University. The Executives job responsibilities shall include all business travel necessary for the performance of her job, including Company-paid travel to and lodging to the Companys other office locations.
Adherence to Inside Information Policies. The Executive acknowledges that the Company is publicly-held and, as a result, has implemented inside information policies designed to preclude its executives and those of its subsidiaries and affiliates from violating the federal securities laws by trading on material, non-public information or passing such information on to others in breach of any duty owed to the Company, or any third party. The Executive shall promptly execute any agreements generally distributed by the Company to its employees requiring such employees to abide by its inside information policies.
Compensation and Expenses.
Salary. For the services of the Executive to be rendered under this Agreement, the Company shall pay the Executive an annual salary of $300,000 (the Base Salary), less such deductions as shall be required to be withheld by applicable law and regulations payable in accordance with the Companys customary payroll practices.
Target Bonus. For each fiscal year during the Term beginning May 1st and ending April 30th of the applicable fiscal year, the Executive shall have the opportunity to earn a bonus up to 30%, 66% or 100% of her then Base Salary (the Target Bonus) as follows:
When the Company achieves annual Adjusted EBITDA (as defined below) at certain threshold levels (each, an EBITDA Threshold), the Executive shall receive an automatic cash bonus (the Automatic Cash Bonus) equal to a percentage of her then Base Salary, and shall receive a grant of fully vested shares of the Companys common stock having an aggregate Fair Market Value (as such term is defined in the Companys 2012 Equity Incentive Plan, as amended) equal to a percentage of the Executives then Base Salary (the Automatic
Equity Bonus). In addition, the Executive shall be eligible to receive an additional percentage of her then Base Salary as a cash bonus (the Discretionary Cash Bonus) and an additional grant of fully vested shares of the Companys common stock having an aggregate Fair Market Value equal to a percentage of the Executives then Base Salary (the Discretionary Equity Bonus) based on the Boards determination that the Executive has achieved certain annual performance objectives established by the Board, based on the mutual agreement of the Chief Executive Officer and the Executive, at the beginning of each fiscal year.
The EBITDA Thresholds and corresponding bonus levels are set forth in the table below. For the avoidance of doubt, the Executive shall only be eligible to receive the bonuses associated with a single EBITDA Threshold; i.e., in the event the Company attains EBITDA Threshold (2), only the bonuses associated with EBITDA Threshold (2) below (and not the bonuses associated with EBITDA Threshold (1)) shall be applicable.
Automatic Cash Bonus
Automatic Equity Bonus
Discretionary Cash Bonus
Discretionary Equity Bonus
Up to 7.5%
Up to 7.5%
Up to 16.5%
Up to 16.5%
$4,000,000 and over
Up to 25%
Up to 25%
Provided, however, that the earning of the Automatic Cash Bonus is subject to the Company having at least $2,000,000 in available cash after deducting the Target Bonus paid to all executive officers of the Company or its subsidiaries under the same Target Bonus formula pursuant to such executives employment agreements (the Cash Threshold) and the Executive continuing to provide services under this Agreement on the applicable Target Bonus determination date. If the Company is unable to pay the Automatic Cash Bonus as a result of not meeting the Cash Threshold, no Automatic Cash Bonus will be earned for that fiscal year. As used in this Agreement, Adjusted EBITDA is calculated as earnings (or loss) from continuing operations before preferred dividends, interest expense, income taxes, collateral valuation adjustment, bad debt expense, depreciation and amortization, and amortization of stock-based compensation; however, if Adjusted EBITDA shall be defined differently in any filing of the Company with the Securities and Exchange Commission subsequent to the date of this Agreement, then Adjusted EBITDA shall thereafter be defined in accordance with the definition most recently set forth in any such filing at each Target Bonus determination date.
Equity Incentive Compensation. The Company has granted the Executive the following, subject to commencing employment: 70,000 stock options (exercisable at $4.90 per share) which shall vest in three approximately equal increments (with fractional shares rounded up for the first period and rounded down for the remaining periods) on May 13, 2018, 2019 and 2020; and 30,000 options (exercisable at $6.28 per share) which shall vest quarterly over a three-year period in twelve equal quarterly increments with the first vesting date being on September 11, 2017, subject to continued service as an employee of the Company on each applicable vesting date.
All of the options shall be subject to the terms of the Companys 2012 Equity Incentive Plan (the Incentive Plan) and will be exercisable for a period of five years from the date of this Agreement provided that they are vested at time of exercise. The exercisability of the options shall be subject to the execution of the Companys standard option agreement which is attached as Exhibit A.
Expenses. The Company will pay expenses related to a house or apartment in the San Diego, California area not to exceed $8,000 per month without the consent of the Company Chief Executive Officer and reimburse her for her additional automobile expenses during the course of her temporary assignment during the months of July September, 2017. In addition to any compensation received pursuant to this Section 4, the Company will reimburse or advance funds to the Executive for all reasonable documented travel, meals and lodging (including travel expenses incurred by the Executive related to her travel between Arizona and California, to the Companys other offices and on business missions for the Company), entertainment and miscellaneous expenses incurred in connection with the performance of her duties under this Agreement, provided that the Executive properly provides a written accounting of such expenses to the Company in accordance with the Companys practices. Such reimbursement or advances will be made in accordance with policies and procedures of the Company in effect from time to time relating to reimbursement of, or advances to, its executive officers, except that no policy shall change the terms of this Agreement.
Discretionary Bonus. During the term of the Agreement, the Compensation Committee shall have the discretion to award the Executive a bonus, in cash or the Companys common stock, based upon the Executives job performance, the Companys revenue growth or any other factors as determined by the Compensation Committee.
Paid Time Off. For each 12-month period during the Term, the Executive shall be entitled to three weeks of Paid Time Off without loss of compensation or other benefits to which she is entitled under this Agreement, to be taken at such times as the Executive may select and the affairs of the Company may permit. Any unused days will be carried over to the next 12-month period.
Employee Benefit Programs. The Executive is entitled to participate in any pension, 401(k), insurance or other employee benefit plan that is maintained by the Company for its executives, including programs of life insurance and reimbursement of
membership fees in professional organizations. The Company will also provide health insurance covering the Executive and family dependents. The benefits provided to the Executive may not be less than the Company provides to any of its executive employees.
Death or Disability. Except as otherwise provided in this Agreement, this Agreement shall automatically terminate upon the death or disability of the Executive. For purposes of this Section 6(a), disability shall mean (i) the Executive is unable to engage in her customary duties by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death, or last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months; (ii) the Executive is, by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death, or last for continuous period of not less than 12 months, receiving income replacement benefits for a period of not less than three months under an accident and health plan covering employees of the Company; or (iii) the Executive is determined to be totally disabled by the Social Security Administration. Any question as to the existence of a disability shall be determined by the written opinion of the Executives regularly attending physician (or her guardian) (or the Social Security Administration, where applicable). In the event that the Executives employment is terminated by reason of Executives death or disability, the Company shall pay the following to the Executive or her personal representative: (i) any accrued but unpaid Base Salary for services rendered to the date of termination, (ii) any accrued but unpaid expenses required to be reimbursed under this Agreement, (iii) any earned but unpaid bonuses, and (iv) all equity awards previously granted to the Executive under the Incentive Plan or similar plan shall thereupon become fully vested, and the Executive or her legally appointed guardian, as the case may be, shall have up to three months from the date of termination (or one year from the date of death) to exercise all such previously granted options, provided that in no event shall any option be exercisable beyond its term.
Termination by the Company for Cause or by the Executive Without Good Reason. The Company may terminate the Executives employment pursuant to the terms of this Agreement at any time for Cause (as defined below) by giving the Executive written notice of termination. Such termination shall become effective upon the giving of such notice. Upon any such termination for Cause, or in the event the Executive terminates her employment with the Company without Good Reason (as defined in Section 6(c)), then the Executive shall have no right to compensation, or reimbursement under Section 4, or to participate in any Executive benefit programs under Section 5, except for payments and benefits accrued up to the time of the termination and except as may otherwise be provided for by law, for any period subsequent to the effective date of termination. For purposes of this Agreement, Cause shall mean: (i) the Executive is convicted of, or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to, a felony related to the business of the Company; (ii) the Executive, in carrying out her duties hereunder, has acted with gross negligence or intentional misconduct resulting, in any case, in harm to the Company; (iii) the Executive misappropriates Company funds or otherwise defrauds the Company; (iv) the Executive breaches her fiduciary duty to the Company resulting in profit to her, directly or indirectly; (v) the Executive materially breaches any written agreement with the Company and fails to cure such breach within 10 days of receipt of notice, unless the act is incapable of being cured; (vi) the Executive breaches any provision of Section 8 or Section 9; (vii) the Executive becomes subject to a preliminary or permanent injunction issued by a United States District
Court enjoining the Executive from violating any securities law administered or regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission; (viii) the Executive becomes subject to a cease and desist order or other order issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission after an opportunity for a hearing; (ix) the Executive refuses to carry out a resolution adopted by the Companys Board at a meeting in which the Executive was offered a reasonable opportunity to argue that the resolution should not be adopted, provided that the resolution did not direct the Executive to act or refrain from acting in a manner which is contrary to this Agreement, is unlawful or would expose the Executive to regulatory, civil or criminal liability; or (x) the Executive abuses alcohol or drugs in a manner that interferes with the successful performance of her duties. Any termination made by the Company under this Agreement shall be approved by the Board.
This Agreement may be terminated: (i) by the Executive for Good Reason (as defined below), (ii) by the Company without Cause, (iii) upon any Change of Control event as defined in Treasury Regulation Section 1.409A-3(i)(5) provided, that, within 12 months of the Change of Control event (A) the Company terminates the Executives employment or changes her title as Chief Academic Officer, or (B) the Executive terminate her employment or (iv) at the end of a Term after the Company provides the Executive with notice of non-renewal.
In the event this Agreement is terminated by the Executive for Good Reason or by the Company without Cause, the Executive shall be entitled to the following:
any accrued but unpaid Base Salary for services rendered to the date of termination;
any accrued but unpaid expenses required to be reimbursed under this Agreement;
a payment equal to six months of the then Base Salary (Severance Amount);
the Executive or her legally appointed guardian, as the case may be, shall have up to three months from the date of termination to exercise all such previously granted options, provided that in no event shall any option be exercisable beyond its Term;
any benefits (except perquisites) to which the Executive was entitled pursuant to Section 5(b) hereof shall continue to be paid or provided by the Company, as the case may be, for three months, subject to the terms of any applicable plan or insurance contract and applicable law provided that such benefits are exempt from Section 409A of the Code by reason of Treasury Regulation 1.409A-1(a)(5) or otherwise. In the event all or a portion of the benefits to which the Executive was entitled pursuant to Section 5(b) hereof are subject to 409A of the Code, the Executive shall not be entitled to the benefits that are subject to Section 409A of
the Code subsequent to the applicable 2 ½ month period (as such term is defined under Treasury Regulation Section 1.409A-1(b)(4)(i)(A)).
In the event of a Change of Control during the Term subject to the termination of employment as outlined in section 6(c)91), the Executive shall be entitled to receive each of the provisions of Section 6(c)(2)(A) (E) above except the Severance Amount shall be equal to three months of the then Base Salary and the benefits under Section 6(c)(2)(E) shall continue for a three month period provided that such benefits are exempt from Section 409A of the Code by reason of Treasury Regulation 1.409A-1(a)(5) or otherwise. In the event all or a portion of the benefits under Section 6(c)(2)(E) are subject to 409A of the Code, the Executive shall not be entitled to the benefits that are subject to Section 409A of the Code subsequent to the applicable 2 ½ month period (as such term is defined under Treasury Regulation Section 1.409A-1(b)(4)(i)(A)).
In the event this Agreement is terminated at the end of a Term after the Company provides the Executive with notice of non-renewal and the Executive remains employed until the end of the Term, the Executive shall be entitled to the following:
any accrued but unpaid Base Salary for services rendered to the date of termination;
any accrued but unpaid expenses required to be reimbursed under this Agreement;
the Executive or her legally appointed guardian, as the case may be, shall have up to three months from the date of termination to exercise all such previously granted options, provided that in no event shall any option be exercisable beyond its Term; and
In the event of a termination for Good Reason or without Cause, the payment of the Severance Amount shall be made at the same times as the Company pays compensation to its employees over the applicable monthly period and any other payments owed under Section 6(c) shall be promptly paid. Provided, however, that any balance of the Severance Amount remaining due on the applicable 2 ½ month period (as such term is defined under Treasury Regulation Section 1.409A-1(b)(4)(i)(A)) after the end of the tax year in which the Executives employment is terminated or the Term ends shall be paid on the last day of the applicable 2 ½ month period. The payment of the Severance Amount shall be conditioned on the Executive signing an Agreement and General Release (in the form which is attached as Exhibit B) which releases the Company or any of its affiliates (including its officers, directors and their affiliates) from any liability under this Agreement or related to the Executives employment with the Company provided that (x) the payment of the Severance Amount is made on or before the 90th day following the Executives termination of employment; (y) such Agreement and General Release is executed by the Executive, submitted to the Company, and the statutory period during which the Executive is entitled to revoke the Agreement and General Release under applicable law has expired on or before that 90th day; and (z) in the event that the 90 day period begins in one taxable year and ends in a second taxable year, then the payment of the Severance Amount
shall be made in the second taxable year. Upon any Change of Control event, all payments owed under Section 6(c)(3) shall be paid immediately.
The term Good Reason shall mean: (i) a material diminution in the Executives authority, duties or responsibilities due to no fault of the Executive other than temporarily while the Executive is physically or mentally incapacitated or as required by applicable law (unless the Executive has agreed to such diminution); (ii) the Company no longer maintains an office in the metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona area or (iii) any other action or inaction that constitutes a material breach by the Company under this Agreement. Prior to the Executive terminating her employment with the Company for Good Reason, the Executive must provide written notice to the Company, within 30 days following the Executives initial awareness of the existence of such condition, that such Good Reason exists and setting forth in detail the grounds the Executive believes constitutes Good Reason. If the Company does not cure the condition(s) constituting Good Reason within 30 days following receipt of such notice, then the Executives employment shall be deemed terminated for Good Reason.
Upon (1) voluntary or involuntary termination of the Executives employment or (2) at the Companys request at any time during the Executives employment, the Executive shall (i) provide or return to the Company any and all Company property, including keys, key cards, access cards, security devices, employer credit cards, network access devices, computers, cell phones, smartphones, manuals, work product, thumb drives or other removable information storage devices, and hard drives, and all Company documents and materials belonging to the Company and stored in any fashion, including but not limited to those that constitute or contain any Confidential Information or work product, that are in the possession or control of the Executive, whether they were provided to the Executive by the Company or any of its business associates or created by the Executive in connection with her employment by the Company; and (ii) delete or destroy all copies of any such documents and materials not returned to the Company that remain in the Executives possession or control, including those stored on any non-Company devices, networks, storage locations and media in the Executives possession or control.
Indemnification. The Company shall indemnify the Executive, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law against all costs, charges and expenses incurred or sustained by her in connection with any action, suit or proceeding to which he may be made a party by reason of her being an officer, director or employee of the Company or of any subsidiary or affiliate of the Company. This indemnification shall be pursuant to an Indemnification Agreement, a copy of which is annexed as Exhibit C.
Competition with the Company. Until termination of her employment, unless she is terminated by the Company without Cause or if the Company breaches this Agreement and the Company fails to cure the breach within 10 days after receipt of notice, and for a period of one year commencing on the date of any other termination, the Executive (individually or in association with, or as a shareholder, director, officer, consultant, employee, partner, joint venturer, member, or otherwise, of or through any person, firm, corporation, partnership, association or other entity) shall not, directly or indirectly, compete with the
Company (which for the purpose of this Agreement also includes any of its subsidiaries or affiliates) by acting as an employee or officer (or comparable position) of, owning an interest in, or providing services substantially similar to those services the Executive provided to the Company to any entity within any metropolitan area in the United States or other country in which the Company was actually engaged in business as of the time of termination of employment or where the Company reasonably expected to engage in business within three months of the date of termination of employment. For purposes of this Agreement, the term compete with the Company shall refer to any business activity in which the Company was engaged as of the termination of the Executives employment or reasonably expected to engage in within three months of termination of employment; provided, however, the foregoing shall not prevent the Executive from (i) accepting employment with an enterprise engaged in two or more lines of business, one of which is the same or similar to the Companys business (the Prohibited Business) if the Executives employment is totally unrelated to the Prohibited Business, (ii) competing in a country where as of the time of the alleged violation the Company has ceased engaging in business, or (iii) competing in a line of business which as of the time of the alleged violation the Company has either ceased engaging in or publicly announced or disclosed that it intends to cease engaging in; provided, further, the foregoing shall not prohibit the Executive from owning up to 5% of the securities of any publicly-traded enterprise provided that the Executive is not a director, officer, consultant, employee, partner, joint venturer, manager, or member of, or to such enterprise, or otherwise compensated for services rendered thereby.
Solicitation of Students. During the periods in which the provisions of Section 8(a) shall be in effect, the Executive, directly or indirectly, will not seek nor accept Prohibited Business from any Students (as defined below) on behalf of herself or any enterprise or business other than the Company, refer Prohibited Business from any Student to any enterprise or business other than the Company or receive commissions based on sales or otherwise relating to the Prohibited Business from any Student, or any enterprise or business other than the Company. For purposes of this Agreement, the term Student means any person who enrolled in an online university or school which is a subsidiary of the Company as a student during the 24-month period prior to the time at which any determination is required to be made as to whether any such person is a Student.
Solicitation of Employees. During the period in which the provisions of Section 8(a) and (b) shall be in effect, the Executive agrees that she shall not, directly or indirectly, request, recommend or advise any employee of the Company to terminate his or her employment with the Company, for the purposes of providing services for a Prohibited Business, or solicit for employment or recommend to any third party the solicitation for employment of any individual who was employed by the Company or any of its subsidiaries and affiliates at any time during the one year period preceding the Executives termination of employment.
Non-disparagement. The Executive agrees that, after the end of her employment, she will refrain from making, directly or indirectly, in writing or orally, any unfavorable comments about the Company, its operations, policies, or procedures that would be likely to injure the Companys reputation or business prospects; provided, however, that nothing herein shall preclude the Executive from responding truthfully to a lawful subpoena or other compulsory legal process or from providing truthful information otherwise required by law.
No Payment. The Executive acknowledges and agrees that no separate or additional payment will be required to be made to her in consideration of her undertakings in this Section 8, and confirms she has received adequate consideration for such undertakings, provided the Company has not breached this Agreement.
References. References to the Company in this Section 8 shall include the Companys subsidiaries and affiliates.
Non-Disclosure of Confidential Information.
(a) For purposes of this Agreement, Confidential Information excludes the skills, experience, education and abilities the Executive brings to this employment with her, but includes, but is not limited to, trade secrets, processes, policies, procedures, techniques, designs, drawings, show-how, technical information, specifications, computer software and source code, information and data relating to the development, research, testing, costs, marketing, and uses of the Services (as defined herein), the Companys budgets and strategic plans, and the identity and special needs of Students, vendors, and suppliers, subjects and databases, data, and all technology relating to the Companys businesses, systems, methods of operation, and Student lists, Student information, solicitation leads, marketing and advertising materials, methods and manuals and forms, all of which pertain to the activities or operations of the Company, the names, home addresses and all telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of the Companys directors, employees, officers, executives, former executives, Students and former Students. Confidential Information also includes, without limitation, Confidential Information received from the Companys subsidiaries and affiliates. For purposes of this Agreement, the following will not constitute Confidential Information (i) information which is or subsequently becomes generally available to the public through no act or fault of the Executive, (ii) information set forth in the written records of the Executive prior to disclosure to the Executive by or on behalf of the Company which information is given to the Company in writing as of or prior to the date of this Agreement, and (iii) information which is lawfully obtained by the Executive in writing from a third party (excluding any affiliates of the Executive) who lawfully acquired the confidential information and who did not acquire such confidential information or trade secret, directly or indirectly, from the Executive or the Company or its subsidiaries or affiliates and who has not breached any duty of confidentiality. As used herein, the term Services shall include all services offered for sale and marketed by the Company during the Term, which as of the Effective Date consist of operating an online university in compliance with all applicable regulatory requirements.
Legitimate Business Interests. The Executive recognizes that the Company has legitimate business interests to protect and as a consequence, the Executive agrees to the restrictions contained in this Agreement because they further the Companys legitimate business interests. These legitimate business interests include, but are not limited to (i) trade secrets; (ii) valuable confidential business, technical, and/or professional information that otherwise may not qualify as trade secrets, including, but not limited to, all Confidential Information; (iii) substantial, significant, or key relationships with specific prospective or existing Students, vendors or suppliers; (iv) Student goodwill associated with the Companys business; and (v) specialized training relating to the Companys technology, Services, methods, operations and procedures. Notwithstanding the foregoing, nothing in this Section 9(b) shall be
construed to impose restrictions greater than those imposed by other provisions of this Agreement.
Confidentiality. During the Term of this Agreement and following termination of employment, for any reason, the Confidential Information shall be held by the Executive in the strictest confidence and shall not, without the prior express written consent of the Company, be disclosed to any person other than in connection with the Executives employment by the Company. The Executive further acknowledges that such Confidential Information as is acquired and used by the Company or its subsidiaries or affiliates is a special, valuable and unique asset. The Executive shall exercise all due and diligent precautions to protect the integrity of the Companys Confidential Information and to keep it confidential whether it is in written form, on electronic media, oral, or otherwise. The Executive shall not copy any Confidential Information except to the extent necessary to her employment nor remove any Confidential Information or copies thereof from the Companys premises except to the extent necessary to her employment. All records, files, materials and other Confidential Information obtained by the Executive in the course of her employment with the Company are confidential and proprietary and shall remain the exclusive property of the Company, its Students. The Executive shall not, except in connection with and as required by her performance of her duties under this Agreement, for any reason use for her own benefit or the benefit of any person or entity other than the Company or disclose any such Confidential Information to any person, firm, corporation, association or other entity for any reason or purpose whatsoever without the prior express written consent of an executive officer of the Company (excluding the Executive).
References. References to the Company in this Section 9 shall include the Companys subsidiaries and affiliates.
Whistleblowing. Nothing contained in this Agreement shall be construed to prevent the Executive from reporting any act or failure to act to the SEC or other governmental body or prevent the Executive from obtaining a fee as a whistleblower under Rule 21F-17(a) under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 or other rules or regulations implemented under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act and Consumer Protection Act.
The Company and the Executive recognize that the services to be rendered under this Agreement by the Executive are special, unique and of extraordinary character, and that in the event of the breach by the Executive of the terms and conditions of this Agreement or if the Executive, without the prior express consent of the Board, shall leave her employment for any reason and/or take any action in violation of Section 8 and/or Section 9, the Company shall be entitled to institute and prosecute proceedings in any court of competent jurisdiction referred to in Section 10(b) below, to enjoin the Executive from breaching the provisions of Section 8 and/or Section 9.
Any action must be commenced only in the appropriate state or federal court located in Phoenix, Arizona. The Executive and the Company irrevocably and unconditionally submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of such courts and agree to take any and all
future action necessary to submit to the jurisdiction of such courts. The Executive and the Company irrevocably waive any objection that they now have or hereafter may have to the laying of venue of any suit, action or proceeding brought in any such court and further irrevocably waive any claim that any such suit, action or proceeding brought in any such court has been brought in an inconvenient forum. Final judgment against the Executive or the Company in any such suit shall be conclusive and may be enforced in other jurisdictions by suit on the judgment, a certified or true copy of which shall be conclusive evidence of the fact and the amount of any liability of the Executive or the Company therein described, or by appropriate proceedings under any applicable treaty or otherwise.
Conflicts of Interest. While employed by the Company, the Executive shall not, unless approved by the Compensation Committee, directly or indirectly:
participate as an individual in any way in the benefits of transactions with any of the Companys vendors or Students, including, without limitation, having a financial interest in the Companys vendors or Students, or making loans to, or receiving loans, from, the Companys vendors or Students, or subjects;
realize a personal gain or advantage from a transaction in which the Company has an interest or use information obtained in connection with the Executives employment with the Company for the Executives personal advantage or gain; or
accept any offer to serve as an officer, director, partner, consultant, manager with, or to be employed in a professional, technical, or managerial capacity by, a person or entity which does business with the Company.
Inventions, Ideas, Processes, and Designs. Except for the scope of pre-existing knowledge which the Executive has prior to commencement of employment with the Company, all inventions, ideas, processes, programs, software, and designs (including all improvements) (i) conceived or made by the Executive during the course of her employment with the Company (whether or not actually conceived during regular business hours) and for a period of six months subsequent to the termination (whether by expiration of the Term or otherwise) of such employment with the Company, and (ii) related to the business of the Company, shall be disclosed in writing promptly to the Company and shall be the sole and exclusive property of the Company, and the Executive hereby assigns any such inventions to the Company. An invention, idea, process, program, software, or design (including an improvement) shall be deemed related to the business of the Company if (a) it was made with the Companys funds, personnel, equipment, supplies, facilities, or Confidential Information, (b) results from work performed by the Executive for the Company, or (c) pertains to the current business or demonstrably anticipated research or development work of the Company. The Executive shall cooperate with the Company and its attorneys in the preparation of patent and copyright applications for such developments and, upon request, shall promptly assign all such inventions, ideas, processes, and designs to the Company. The decision to file for patent or copyright protection or to maintain such development as a trade secret, or otherwise, shall be in the sole discretion of the Company, and the Executive shall be bound by such decision. The Executive hereby irrevocably assigns to the Company, for no additional consideration, the Executives entire right, title and interest in and to all work product and intellectual property rights, including the right to sue, counterclaim
and recover for all past, present and future infringement, misappropriation or dilution thereof, and all rights corresponding thereto throughout the world. Nothing contained in this Agreement shall be construed to reduce or limit the Company's rights, title or interest in any work product or intellectual property rights so as to be less in any respect than the Company would have had in the absence of this Agreement. If applicable, the Executive shall provide as a schedule to this Agreement, a complete list of all inventions, ideas, processes, and designs, if any, patented or unpatented, copyrighted or otherwise, or non-copyrighted, including a brief description, which she made or conceived prior to her employment with the Company and which therefore are excluded from the scope of this Agreement. References to the Company in this Section 12 shall include the Company, its subsidiaries and affiliates.
Indebtedness. If, during the course of the Executives employment under this Agreement, the Executive becomes indebted to the Company for any reason, the Company may, if it so elects, and if permitted by applicable law, set off any sum due to the Company from the Executive and collect any remaining balance from the Executive unless the Executive has entered into a written agreement with the Company.
Assignability. With written notice to the Executive, the rights and obligations of the Company under this Agreement shall inure to the benefit of and be binding upon the successors and assigns of the Company, provided that such successor or assign shall acquire all or substantially all of the securities or assets and business of the Company. The Executives obligations hereunder may not be assigned or alienated and any attempt to do so by the Executive will be void.
The Executive expressly agrees that the character, duration and geographical scope of the non-competition provisions set forth in this Agreement are reasonable in light of the circumstances as they exist on the date hereof. Should a decision, however, be made at a later date by a court of competent jurisdiction that the character, duration or geographical scope of such provisions is unreasonable, then it is the intention and the agreement of the Executive and the Company that this Agreement shall be construed by the court in such a manner as to impose only those restrictions on the Executives conduct that are reasonable in the light of the circumstances and as are necessary to assure to the Company the benefits of this Agreement. If, in any judicial proceeding, a court shall refuse to enforce all of the separate covenants deemed included herein because taken together they are more extensive than necessary to assure to the Company the intended benefits of this Agreement, it is expressly understood and agreed by the parties hereto that the provisions of this Agreement that, if eliminated, would permit the remaining separate provisions to be enforced in such proceeding shall be deemed eliminated, for the purposes of such proceeding, from this Agreement.
If any provision of this Agreement otherwise is deemed to be invalid or unenforceable or is prohibited by the laws of the state or jurisdiction where it is to be performed, this Agreement shall be considered divisible as to such provision and such provision shall be inoperative in such state or jurisdiction and shall not be part of the consideration moving from either of the parties to the other. The remaining provisions of this Agreement shall be valid and binding and of like effect as though such provisions were not included.
Notices and Addresses. All notices, offers, acceptance and any other acts under this Agreement (except payment) shall be in writing, and shall be sufficiently given if delivered to the addressees in person, by FedEx or similar receipted delivery, or next business day delivery to the addresses detailed below (or to such other address, as either of them, by notice to the other may designate from time to time), or by e-mail delivery (in which event a copy shall immediately be sent by FedEx or similar receipted delivery), as follows:
To the Company:
Chief Executive Officer
Aspen Group, Inc.
46 East 21st Street, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10010
With a copy to:
Nason, Yeager, Gerson White & Lioce, P.A.
Attn: Michael D. Harris, Esq.
3001 PGA Blvd., Suite 305
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410
To the Executive:
Cheri St. Arnauld
11811 N Tatum Blvd. #4000
Phoenix, AZ 85028
Counterparts. This Agreement may be executed in one or more counterparts, each of which shall be deemed an original but all of which together shall constitute one and the same instrument. The execution of this Agreement may be by actual or facsimile signature.
Attorneys Fees. In the event that there is any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this Agreement, or to the interpretation, breach or enforcement thereof, and any action or proceeding is commenced to enforce the provisions of this Agreement, the prevailing party shall be entitled to reasonable attorneys fees, costs and expenses (including such fees and costs on appeal).
Governing Law. This Agreement shall be governed or interpreted according to the internal laws of the State of Delaware without regard to choice of law considerations and all claims relating to or arising out of this Agreement, or the breach thereof, whether sounding in contract, tort, or otherwise, shall also be governed by the laws of the State of Arizona without regard to choice of law considerations.
Entire Agreement. This Agreement constitutes the entire Agreement between the parties and supersedes all prior oral and written agreements between the parties hereto with respect to the subject matter hereof. Neither this Agreement nor any provision hereof may be changed, waived, discharged or terminated orally, except by a statement in writing signed by the party or parties against which enforcement or the change, waiver discharge or termination is sought.
Section and Paragraph Headings. The section and paragraph headings in this Agreement are for reference purposes only and shall not affect the meaning or interpretation of this Agreement.
Section 409A Compliance.
This Agreement is intended to comply with Section 409A of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (Section 409A), or an exemption thereunder. This Agreement shall be construed and administered in accordance with Section 409A. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Agreement to the contrary, payments provided under this Agreement may only be made upon an event and in a manner that complies with Section 409A or an applicable exemption. Any payments under this Agreement that may be excluded from Section 409A either as separation pay due to an involuntary separation from service (including a voluntary separation from service for good reason that is considered an involuntary separation for purposes of the separation pay exception under Treasury Regulation 1.409A-1(n)(2)) or as a short-term deferral shall be excluded from Section 409A to the maximum extent possible. For purposes of Section 409A, each installment payment provided under this Agreement shall be treated as a separate payment. Any payments to be made under this Agreement upon a termination of employment shall only be made if such termination of employment constitutes a separation from service under Section 409A. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Company makes no representations that the payments and benefits provided under this Agreement comply with Section 409A and in no event shall the Company be liable for all or any portion of any taxes, penalties, interest, or other expenses that may be incurred by the Executive on account of non-compliance with Section 409A.
Notwithstanding any other provision of this Agreement, if at the time of the Executive's termination of employment, the Executive is a specified employee, determined in accordance with Section 409A, any payments and benefits provided under this Agreement that constitute nonqualified deferred compensation subject to Section 409A (e.g., payments and benefits that do not qualify as a short-term deferral or as a separation pay exception) that are provided to the Executive on account of the Executives separation from service shall not be paid until the first payroll date to occur following the six-month anniversary of the Executive's termination date (Specified Employee Payment Date). The aggregate amount of any payments that would otherwise have been made during such six-month period shall be paid in a lump sum on the Specified Employee Payment Date without interest and thereafter, any remaining payments shall be paid without delay in accordance with their original schedule. If the Executive dies during the six-month period, any delayed payments shall be paid to the Executives estate in a lump sum upon the Executives death.
To the extent required by Section 409A, each reimbursement or in-kind benefit provided under this Agreement shall be provided in accordance with the following:
the amount of expenses eligible for reimbursement, or in-kind benefits provided, during each calendar year cannot affect the expenses eligible for reimbursement, or in-kind benefits to be provided, in any other calendar year;
any reimbursement of an eligible expense shall be paid to the Executive on or before the last day of the calendar year following the calendar year in which the expense was incurred; and
any right to reimbursements or in-kind benefits under this Agreement shall not be subject to liquidation or exchange for another benefit.
In the event the Company determines that the Executive is a specified employee within the meaning of Section 409A(a)(2)(B)(i) of the Code at the time of the Executives separation from service, then to the extent any payment or benefit that the Executive becomes entitled to under this Agreement on account of the Executives separation from service would be considered deferred compensation subject to Section 409A as a result of the application of Section 409A(a)(2)(B)(i) of the Code, such payment shall not be payable and such benefit shall not be provided until the date that is the earlier of (i) six months and one day after the Executives separation from service, or (ii) the Executives death (the Six Month Delay Rule).
For purposes of this subparagraph, amounts payable under the Agreement should not provide for a deferral of compensation subject to Section 409A to the extent provided in Treasury Regulation Section 1.409A-1(b)(4) (e.g., short-term deferrals), Treasury Regulation Section 1.409A-1(b)(9) (e.g., separation pay plans, including the exception under subparagraph (iii)), and other applicable provisions of the Treasury Regulations.
To the extent that the Six Month Delay Rule applies to payments otherwise payable on an installment basis, the first payment shall include a catch-up payment covering amounts that would otherwise have been paid during the six-month period but for the application of the Six Month Delay Rule, and the balance of the installments shall be payable in accordance with their original schedule.
To the extent that the Six Month Delay Rule applies to the provision of benefits (including, but not limited to, life insurance and medical insurance), such benefit coverage shall nonetheless be provided to the Executive during the first six months following her separation from service (the Six Month Period), provided that, during such Six-Month Period, the Executive pays to the Company, on a monthly basis in advance, an amount equal to the Monthly Cost (as defined below) of such benefit coverage. The Company shall reimburse the Executive for any such payments made by the Executive in a lump sum not later than 30 days following the six-month anniversary of the Executives separation from service. For purposes of this subparagraph, Monthly Cost means the minimum dollar amount which, if paid by the Executive on a monthly basis in advance, results in the Executive not being required to recognize any federal income tax on receipt of the benefit coverage during the Six Month Period.
The parties intend that this Agreement will be administered in accordance with Section 409A. To the extent that any provision of this Agreement is ambiguous as to its compliance with Section 409A, the provision shall be read in such a manner so that all payments hereunder comply with Section 409A. The parties agree that this Agreement may be amended, as reasonably requested by either party, and as may be necessary to fully comply with Section
409A and all related rules and regulations in order to preserve the payments and benefits provided hereunder without additional cost to either party.
The Company makes no representation or warranty and shall have no liability to the Executive or any other person if any provisions of this Agreement are determined to constitute deferred compensation subject to Section 409A but do not satisfy an exemption from, or the conditions of, such Section.
[Signature Page To Follow]
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the Company and the Executive have executed this Agreement as of the date and year first above written.
Aspen Group, Inc.
Chief Executive Officer
Cheri St. Arnauld