DEF 14A 1 d469780ddef14a.htm DEFINITIVE PROXY STATEMENT Definitive Proxy Statement
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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

SCHEDULE 14A

Proxy Statement Pursuant to Section 14(a) of

the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Amendment No.    )

Filed by the Registrant    x

Filed by a Party other than the Registrant    ¨

Check the appropriate box:

¨ Preliminary Proxy Statement

 

¨ Confidential, for Use of the Commission Only (as permitted by Rule 14a-6(e)(2))

 

x Definitive Proxy Statement

 

¨ Definitive Additional Materials

 

¨ Soliciting Material under § 240.14a-12

Career Education Corporation

 

(Name of Registrant as Specified In Its Charter)

 

 

(Name of Person(s) Filing Proxy Statement, if other than the Registrant)

 

Payment of Filing Fee (Check the appropriate box):

 

x No fee required.
¨ Fee computed on table below per Exchange Act Rules 14a-6(i)(1) and 0-11.
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  (2) Aggregate number of securities to which transaction applies:

 

  (3) Per unit price or other underlying value of transaction computed pursuant to Exchange Act Rule 0-11 (set forth the amount on which the filing fee is calculated and state how it was determined):

 

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¨ Fee paid previously with preliminary materials.
¨ Check box if any part of the fee is offset as provided by Exchange Act Rule 0-11(a)(2) and identify the filing for which the offsetting fee was paid previously. Identify the previous filing by registration statement number, or the Form or Schedule and the date of its filing.
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  (2) Form, Schedule or Registration Statement No.:

 

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LOGO

CAREER EDUCATION CORPORATION

ANNUAL MEETING OF STOCKHOLDERS

May 14, 2013

 

 

NOTICE AND PROXY STATEMENT


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LOGO

April 9, 2013

Dear Stockholder:

I cordially invite you to attend our 2013 Annual Meeting of Stockholders on May 14, 2013. The Annual Meeting will start promptly at 9:00 a.m., Central Daylight Saving Time, at our campus support center at Career Education Corporation, 231 North Martingale Road, Schaumburg, Illinois 60173.

The attached Notice of Annual Meeting and Proxy Statement describes how our Board of Directors operates, provides biographical information on our director nominees, gives information for the voting matters to be acted upon at the Annual Meeting and explains the proxy voting process.

Whether or not you plan to attend the Annual Meeting, it is important that your shares be represented and voted. Please take a moment now to vote your shares by Internet, toll-free telephone call or by signing and dating the enclosed proxy card and returning it in the pre-addressed, postage-paid envelope provided.

We look forward to seeing you on May 14, 2013 and urge you to vote as soon as possible.

 

Sincerely,

LOGO

Scott W. Steffey

President and Chief Executive Officer


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LOGO

 

 

NOTICE OF ANNUAL MEETING OF STOCKHOLDERS OF CAREER EDUCATION CORPORATION

TO BE HELD ON MAY 14, 2013

Time: Registration begins: 8:30 a.m., Central Daylight Saving Time

Admission to the meeting: 8:45 a.m.    Meeting begins: 9:00 a.m.

 

 

 

Date: May 14, 2013

 

Place: Career Education Corporation
     231 North Martingale Road
     Schaumburg, Illinois 60173

To the Stockholders of Career Education Corporation:

We will hold our 2013 Annual Meeting of Stockholders at the time, date and location specified above, to act and vote on the following matters:

 

  (1) To elect nine directors of Career Education Corporation;

 

  (2) To approve, by a nonbinding advisory vote, executive compensation paid by Career Education Corporation to its named executive officers, commonly referred to as a “Say-on-Pay” proposal;

 

  (3) To approve the performance-based award provisions used to determine executive compensation under the Career Education Corporation 2008 Incentive Compensation Plan;

 

  (4) To ratify the selection of Ernst & Young LLP as the independent registered public accounting firm to audit the Company’s financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2013;

 

  (5) To vote on a stockholder proposal concerning repayment of student loans; and

 

  (6) To consider any other business or matter that is properly raised at the meeting or at any adjournments or postponements of the meeting.

Only stockholders of record at the close of business on March 19, 2013, the record date, are entitled to notice of and to vote at the meeting. Please contact Georgeson Inc., our proxy solicitation firm, toll-free at (888) 206-5970 if you have any questions regarding voting or to request another copy of our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2012, Proxy Statement or proxy card.

By order of the Board of Directors,

LOGO

Jeffrey D. Ayers

Corporate Secretary

Schaumburg, Illinois

April 9, 2013

We urge you to attend the meeting in person or by proxy. Whether or not you expect to attend the meeting, please vote your shares promptly. To vote your shares, use the Internet or call the toll-free telephone number as described in the instructions on your proxy card, or sign, date and return the enclosed proxy card in the pre-addressed, postage-paid envelope provided.


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TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

     1   

CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

     6   

Board and Committee Meetings, Executive Sessions and Attendance

     6   

Annual Meeting Attendance

     6   

Corporate Governance Guidelines and Director Qualifications

     6   

Board Leadership Structure and Role in Risk Oversight

     9   

Communications with the Board of Directors

     10   

Code of Ethics for Executive Officers and Code of Business Conduct and Ethics

     10   

Transactions with Related Persons

     11   

PROPOSAL 1: ELECTION OF DIRECTORS

     13   

COMMITTEES OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS

     22   

Audit Committee

     22   

Compensation Committee

     23   

Compliance Committee

     25   

Nominating and Governance Committee

     25   

DIRECTOR COMPENSATION

     26   

Stock Ownership Guidelines

     28   

EXECUTIVE OFFICERS

     29   

Section 16(a) Beneficial Ownership Reporting Compliance

     31   

Involvement in Certain Legal Proceedings

     31   

REPORT OF THE COMPENSATION COMMITTEE

     33   

COMPENSATION DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

     34   

EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

     54   

Employment Arrangements of Named Executive Officers

     60   

POTENTIAL PAYMENTS UPON TERMINATION OR CHANGE IN CONTROL

     62   

Termination of Employment

     62   

Change in Control

     65   

Potential Payments

     66   

PROPOSAL 2: ADVISORY VOTE ON EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

     69   

PROPOSAL 3: PERFORMANCE-BASED AWARD PROVISIONS UNDER 2008 PLAN

     70   

REPORT OF THE AUDIT COMMITTEE

     79   

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

     79   

PROPOSAL 4: RATIFICATION OF SELECTION OF INDEPENDENT REGISTERED PUBLIC ACCOUNTING FIRM

     81   

PROPOSAL 5: STOCKHOLDER PROPOSAL CONCERNING REPAYMENT OF STUDENT LOANS

     82   

SECURITY OWNERSHIP OF DIRECTORS AND EXECUTIVE OFFICERS

     85   

SECURITY OWNERSHIP OF PRINCIPAL STOCKHOLDERS

     86   

MISCELLANEOUS AND OTHER MATTERS

     87   

Proposals of Stockholders

     87   

Discretionary Proxy Voting Authority/Untimely Stockholder Proposals

     87   

Additional Information

     87   

Cost of Solicitation

     87   

Appendix A: Career Education Corporation 2008 Incentive Compensation Plan, as amended

     A-1   


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Career Education Corporation

231 North Martingale Road

Schaumburg, Illinois 60173

(847) 781-3600

PROXY STATEMENT

GENERAL INFORMATION

Why did I receive these proxy materials?

Career Education Corporation (“CEC,” the “Company,” “we,” “us” or “our”) is holding our 2013 Annual Meeting of Stockholders on May 14, 2013. You have received these materials in connection with the 2013 Annual Meeting.

You are invited to attend our 2013 Annual Meeting of Stockholders on May 14, 2013, beginning at 9:00 a.m., Central Daylight Saving Time. The Annual Meeting will be held at our campus support center at Career Education Corporation, 231 North Martingale Road, Schaumburg, Illinois 60173. To obtain directions to attend the 2013 Annual Meeting and vote in person, please call Investor Relations at (847) 585-3899 or visit our website at www.careered.com under the caption “Corporate Contact.”

This Notice of Annual Meeting of Stockholders, Proxy Statement and accompanying form of proxy are being mailed to stockholders starting on or about April 9, 2013.

Who is entitled to vote at the Annual Meeting?

Stockholders of CEC, as recorded in our stock transfer records as of the close of business on March 19, 2013 (the “Record Date”), are entitled to vote at the 2013 Annual Meeting.

Outstanding Shares

As of the Record Date, the Company had 66,941,766 outstanding shares of common stock. Each outstanding share of common stock is entitled to one vote on each voting matter at the Annual Meeting.

Who can attend the Annual Meeting?

All stockholders as of the Record Date, or their duly appointed proxies, may attend the 2013 Annual Meeting. Stockholders will be admitted to the meeting beginning at 8:45 a.m., Central Daylight Saving Time. Seating will be limited.

What do I need to present for admission to the Annual Meeting?

You will need to present proof of your ownership of the Company’s common stock, such as a bank or brokerage account statement, and a form of personal identification, to be admitted to the Annual Meeting. No cameras, recording equipment, large bags, briefcases or packages will be permitted at the 2013 Annual Meeting. All electronic devices will need to be turned off during the 2013 Annual Meeting.

What is the difference between holding shares as a stockholder of record and as a beneficial owner?

You hold shares as a stockholder of record if your shares are registered directly in your name in our stock transfer records, which are managed by Computershare Trust Company, N.A., our transfer agent. The Company sends the Notice of Annual Meeting of Stockholders, Proxy Statement and CEC’s proxy card directly to you as a stockholder of record.

You hold shares as a beneficial owner if your shares are held in a stock brokerage account or by a bank or other holder of record. This form of ownership is commonly referred to as holding shares in “street name.” Your broker, bank or other stockholder of record forwards the Notice of Annual Meeting of Stockholders, Proxy


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Statement and that stockholder of record’s voting instruction form to you. As the beneficial owner, you direct your broker, bank or other stockholder of record how to vote your shares by using the voting instruction form included in the mailing or by following the instructions therein for voting by telephone or on the Internet.

How do proxies work?

Our Board of Directors is asking you to appoint Jeffrey D. Ayers and Gail B. Rago as your proxy holders to vote your shares at the 2013 Annual Meeting. Mr. Ayers is our Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, and Ms. Rago is our Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel—Corporate and Assistant Corporate Secretary.

You appoint these individuals by voting the enclosed proxy card or through telephone or Internet voting, as described below.

Giving us your signed proxy (or telephone or Internet vote) means that you authorize Mr. Ayers and Ms. Rago to vote your shares at the 2013 Annual Meeting according to the voting directions you provide on the proxy card (or through the telephone or Internet voting procedures).

You may vote for or against all, some or none of our director candidates. You may also provide your (a) advisory vote for or against approval of compensation paid by Career Education Corporation to its named executive officers, commonly referred to as a “Say-on-Pay” proposal; (b) vote for or against the approval of the performance-based award provisions used to determine executive compensation under the Career Education Corporation 2008 Incentive Compensation Plan; (c) vote for or against the ratification of the selection of our independent registered public accounting firm; and (d) vote for or against the stockholder proposal concerning repayment of student loans. You may also choose to abstain from voting on any of these matters.

Unless you indicate otherwise on your proxy card or through the telephone or Internet voting procedures, you also authorize your proxy holders, to the extent permitted under securities regulations, to vote your shares on any matters not known by the Board of Directors at the time this Proxy Statement was printed and that, under our By-Laws, may be properly presented for action at the 2013 Annual Meeting.

How do I vote if I am the stockholder of record?

You can vote in person at the meeting by completing a ballot at the meeting or by delivering your completed proxy card.

Or, you can vote by proxy as follows:

By mail: Complete, sign, date and return your proxy card in the enclosed pre-addressed, postage-paid envelope.

By telephone: Use the toll-free number listed on the proxy card. Easy-to-follow voice prompts allow you to vote your shares and confirm that your instructions have been properly received.

By Internet: The website for Internet voting is listed on the proxy card. Internet voting allows you to confirm that your instructions have been followed.

Telephone and Internet voting procedures use a control number that appears on your proxy card to authenticate you as a stockholder of record and to allow you to confirm that your voting instructions have been properly recorded.

If you vote by telephone or Internet, you do not need to sign and return the proxy card.

Each executed and returned proxy card or voting instruction card and each telephone or Internet vote will be voted as directed. If you do not provide voting directions, the proxy will be voted in accordance with the Board’s voting recommendations contained in this Proxy Statement.

 

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If you are a stockholder of record, and you did not receive a postage-paid envelope, please mail your completed proxy card to Career Education Corporation, c/o Georgeson Inc., 199 Water Street, 26th Floor, New York, New York 10038.

Please contact our proxy solicitation firm, Georgeson Inc., toll-free at (888) 206-5970 if you have any questions regarding voting or to request another copy of this Proxy Statement or the proxy card. Further, the Notice of Annual Meeting of Stockholders, Proxy Statement and Annual Report on Form 10-K are available on our website at www.careered.com under the caption “Investor Relations.”

How do I vote if I am a beneficial owner through a stock brokerage account, a bank or other holder of record?

You will receive materials from your stockbroker, bank or other firm asking how you want to vote. You can complete the firm’s voting instruction form and return it as requested by the firm. If the firm offers Internet or telephone voting, the voting instruction form will contain instructions on how to access those voting methods.

You will not be able to vote in person at the 2013 Annual Meeting unless you have previously requested and obtained a “legal proxy” from your broker, bank or other firm and present it at the 2013 Annual Meeting.

Stockholders are advised to forward their voting instruction forms promptly to allow brokers sufficient time to process the voting instructions. Broker non-votes will be included for purposes of determining whether a quorum is present at the 2013 Annual Meeting. Broker non-votes are proxies received by CEC from brokers or nominees when the broker or nominee has neither received instructions from the beneficial owner or other persons entitled to vote nor has discretionary power to vote on a particular matter.

What is a quorum?

A quorum is the number of shares that must be present at a meeting to have a valid meeting and valid vote. The required quorum to transact business at the 2013 Annual Meeting is a majority of the voting power of shares of CEC common stock issued and outstanding and entitled to vote as of the Record Date.

The inspector of elections appointed for the 2013 Annual Meeting will tabulate the votes cast by proxy and in person at the 2013 Annual Meeting to determine whether or not a quorum is present. For purposes of determining whether a quorum is present, the inspector of elections will count abstentions and broker non-votes as shares that are present and entitled to vote.

Who will count the vote?

At the 2013 Annual Meeting, the inspector of elections appointed by the Board of Directors will tabulate the voting results.

What are the Board of Directors’ recommendations on each proposal?

The Board of Directors recommends that you:

 

   

Vote FOR all of the Board of Directors’ nominees for election as directors.

 

   

Vote FOR the nonbinding stockholder advisory vote to approve executive compensation paid by the Company to its named executive officers.

 

   

Vote FOR the approval of the performance-based award provisions used to determine executive compensation under the Career Education Corporation 2008 Incentive Compensation Plan.

 

   

Vote FOR the ratification of the selection of Ernst & Young LLP as the independent registered public accounting firm to audit our financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2013.

 

   

Vote AGAINST the stockholder proposal concerning repayment of student loans.

 

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What vote is required to approve each proposal?

 

   

Election of Directors:    Each outstanding share of our common stock is entitled to one vote for as many separate nominees as there are directors to be elected. If none of our stockholders provides the Company with notice of an intention to nominate one or more candidates to compete with the Board’s nominees in a director election, or if our stockholders have withdrawn all such nominations by the tenth day before the Company mails its notice of meeting to our stockholders, a nominee for director will be elected to the Board of Directors if the votes cast “FOR” the nominee exceed the votes cast “AGAINST” the nominee. If the number of director nominees exceeds the number of directors to be elected, the directors will be elected by the vote of a plurality of the shares of common stock represented in person or by proxy at the 2013 Annual Meeting. If directors are to be elected by a plurality of the votes cast, stockholders are not permitted to vote against a nominee. Abstentions and shares not present at the 2013 Annual Meeting, including broker non-votes, have no effect on the election of directors, because directors receiving a majority of votes cast will be elected.

 

   

Advisory Vote on Executive Compensation:    Approval, by a nonbinding advisory vote, of the compensation paid by the Company to its named executive officers requires the favorable vote of a majority of the shares of common stock present in person or by proxy at the 2013 Annual Meeting. Abstentions are treated as shares present and not voting, so abstaining has the same effect as a vote “AGAINST” this proposal. Broker non-votes will have no effect on the vote.

 

   

Approval of Performance-Based Award Provisions under 2008 Plan.    Approval of the performance-based award provisions used to determine executive compensation under the Career Education Corporation 2008 Incentive Compensation Plan requires the favorable vote of a majority of the shares of common stock present in person or by proxy at the 2013 Annual Meeting. Abstentions are treated as shares present and not voting, so abstaining has the same effect as a vote “AGAINST” this proposal. Broker non-votes will have no effect on the vote.

 

   

Ratification of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm:    Ratification of the selection of Ernst & Young LLP as the independent registered public accounting firm to audit our financial statements for 2013 requires the favorable vote of a majority of the shares of common stock present in person or by proxy at the 2013 Annual Meeting. Abstentions are treated as shares present and not voting, so abstaining has the same effect as a vote “AGAINST” this proposal. This proposal to ratify the appointment of Ernst & Young LLP will be considered a “routine” matter, and accordingly, brokers and other nominees will have discretionary authority to vote on this proposal.

 

   

Stockholder Proposal.    Approval of the stockholder proposal concerning repayment of student loans requires the favorable vote of a majority of the shares of common stock present in person or by proxy at the 2013 Annual Meeting. Abstentions are treated as shares present and not voting, so abstaining has the same effect as a vote “AGAINST” this proposal. Broker non-votes will have no effect on the vote.

As provided by law, the advisory vote to approve executive compensation is nonbinding. The Board will review and consider the results of the vote when determining executive compensation.

What happens if a director nominee does not receive sufficient votes to be elected to the Board of Directors?

Under Delaware law, an incumbent director who fails to receive the required vote “holds over,” or continues to serve as a director, until his or her successor is elected and qualified. The Company’s Corporate Governance Guidelines provide that the Board expects a director to tender his or her resignation if he or she fails to receive the required number of votes for re-election and that if an incumbent director fails to receive the required vote for re-election, the Nominating and Governance Committee will act on an expedited basis to determine whether to accept the director’s resignation and will submit such recommendation for prompt consideration by the Board. The Board expects the director whose resignation is under consideration to abstain from participating in any decision regarding

 

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that resignation. The Nominating and Governance Committee and the Board may consider any factors they deem relevant in deciding whether to accept a director’s resignation. If the failure of a nominee to be elected at the 2013 Annual Meeting results in a vacancy on the Board, the Board may act to fill that vacancy.

Can I change my vote or revoke my proxy after I return my proxy card?

Yes. Even after you have submitted your proxy, you may change your vote at any time before it is voted at the 2013 Annual Meeting. To change your vote for shares you own directly as a stockholder of record, you may:

 

   

submit a revocation letter with a later date than your proxy card to CEC’s Corporate Secretary; or

 

   

deliver a signed and dated proxy card that is dated later than your prior executed proxy card; or

 

   

vote again at a later date by telephone or Internet; or

 

   

attend the 2013 Annual Meeting and vote in person.

To revoke your proxy or instructions for shares you hold beneficially in “street name,” you can revoke your voting instructions by informing the holder of record in accordance with that holder’s procedures.

Could other matters be decided at the Annual Meeting?

Yes. At the date of this Proxy Statement, we did not know of any other matters to be presented for consideration at the 2013 Annual Meeting. If any other item or matter does properly come before the 2013 Annual Meeting, your proxy holders will vote in their discretion on that item or matter, to the extent permitted under the regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).

Is there a list of stockholders entitled to vote at the Annual Meeting?

Yes. An alphabetical list of stockholders of record entitled to vote at the 2013 Annual Meeting, showing the address of and number of shares registered in the name of each stockholder, will be open to the examination of any stockholder for any purpose germane to the 2013 Annual Meeting during ordinary business hours commencing May 3, 2013, and continuing through the date of the 2013 Annual Meeting at our principal offices, 231 North Martingale Road, Schaumburg, Illinois 60173.

What is “householding” and how does it affect me?

We have adopted a procedure approved by the SEC called “householding.” Under this procedure, stockholders of record sharing a single address can choose to receive only one annual report to stockholders, proxy statement or notice of Internet availability of proxy materials, as applicable. This “householding” practice reduces our printing and postage costs. However, if you or another stockholder of record at a single address wishes to receive a separate Annual Report or Proxy Statement this year or in the future, you, he or she may contact us at (847) 585-3899 or may write to us at Investor Relations, Career Education Corporation, 231 North Martingale Road, Schaumburg, Illinois 60173.

If you are a “street name” holder, you can request householding by contacting your bank or broker.

Can I access the Notice of Annual Meeting of Stockholders, Proxy Statement and Annual Report on Form 10-K on the Internet?

CEC’s 2013 Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2012, containing financial and other information pertaining to CEC, is being furnished to stockholders with this Notice of Annual Meeting and Proxy Statement. The Notice of Annual Meeting of Stockholders, Proxy Statement and Annual Report on Form 10-K are also available on our website at www.careered.com under the caption “Investor Relations.”

 

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CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

Board and Committee Meetings, Executive Sessions and Attendance

The Board of Directors met 19 times in 2012.

The Board’s standing Committees are Audit, Compensation, Compliance and Nominating and Governance. In 2012, the Audit Committee held nine meetings, the Compensation Committee held eight meetings, the Compliance Committee held three meetings, and the Nominating and Governance Committee held five meetings.

In 2012, each incumbent director attended at least 75% of the total number of Board meetings and at least 75% of the total number of meetings of the Committees on which he or she served during the period he or she served as a director or Committee member.

Annual Meeting Attendance

Directors are expected to attend annual meetings of the Company’s stockholders, including the 2013 Annual Meeting, absent unusual circumstances. Each member of the Board of Directors who served as a director at the time of the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Company’s stockholders attended that meeting.

Corporate Governance Guidelines and Director Qualifications

The Board of Directors has adopted Corporate Governance Guidelines to assist it in fulfilling its responsibility to exercise its business judgment to act in what it believes to be the best interest of our stockholders. The Corporate Governance Guidelines, as amended, are posted on the Company’s website, www.careered.com, under the caption “Investor Relations.”

Direct Independence

Our Corporate Governance Guidelines require that a majority of the Board consist of non-employee independent directors as defined under NASDAQ’s listing standards and any other applicable laws or regulations.

Nominating Procedures and Director Qualifications

Our Sixth Amended and Restated By-Laws address the director nominee selection process and our Corporate Governance Guidelines address director qualifications.

The Nominating and Governance Committee considers candidates for the Board from any reasonable source, including stockholder and Board recommendations. The Nominating and Governance Committee does not evaluate candidates differently based on who has proposed the candidate. The Nominating and Governance Committee has the authority under its charter to hire and pay a fee to consultants or search firms to assist in the process of identifying and evaluating director candidates. In 2012, the Nominating and Governance Committee engaged a search firm to assist with identifying potential candidates to fill vacancies on the Board, and these services facilitated the appointment of Ronald McCray and Louis Caldera to the Board effective November 13, 2012 and March 19, 2013, respectively. The Nominating and Governance Committee recommends candidates for nomination to the Board of Directors.

Stockholders who wish to suggest qualified director candidates for consideration by the Nominating and Governance Committee should write to the Corporate Secretary, Career Education Corporation, 231 North Martingale Road, Schaumburg, Illinois 60173 specifying the name of the candidate and stating in detail the person’s qualifications. A written statement from the candidate, consenting to be named as a candidate and to serve as a director if nominated and elected, should accompany the recommendation. Stockholders who wish to

 

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nominate a director for election at an annual meeting of the stockholders of the Company must comply with the Company’s By-Laws regarding stockholder proposals and nominations. See “Miscellaneous and Other Matters—Proposals of Stockholders” contained in this Proxy Statement.

The Nominating and Governance Committee considers the entirety of each candidate’s credentials and does not have any specific minimum qualifications that must be met by a nominee recommended by the Nominating and Governance Committee or by a stockholder. The Nominating and Governance Committee believes that each member of the Board should have the highest character and integrity, a reputation for working constructively with others, sufficient time to devote to Board matters and no conflict of interest that would interfere with his or her performance as a director. In evaluating and selecting new directors, the Nominating and Governance Committee considers whether the candidate meets the definition of independent director as specified in NASDAQ’s listing standards, as well as such candidate’s strength of character, mature judgment, career specialization, relevant technical skills, diversity and the extent to which the candidate would fill a present need for the Board. The Nominating and Governance Committee has sought candidates with diverse backgrounds and experience in academia, government regulation of postsecondary education, investing, accounting, finance and public companies to provide the Board with informed perspectives on the complex business and regulatory environment in which the Company operates, and has established both race and gender diversity on the Board. In the case of a current director being considered for re-nomination, the Nominating and Governance Committee also takes into consideration the director’s history of meeting attendance, tenure and preparation for and participation at Board and Board Committee meetings.

Specific Qualifications, Attributes and Skills Our Directors Bring to the Board

Over the past several years, Congress, the Department of Education, states, accrediting agencies and the media have increased their scrutiny of the private, postsecondary education industry which has resulted in adverse publicity for the sector. Various Congressional hearings and roundtable discussions have been held, beginning in June 2010, by the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (the “HELP Committee”) and other Congressional members and committees regarding various aspects of the education industry. In addition, over the past two years, various members of Congress have proposed legislation that if adopted would affect our business. All of these activities may lead to adverse legislation, additional Department of Education, state or accrediting agency regulations, additional negative media coverage or further federal or other investigations of the private, postsecondary education industry. Throughout 2012, we continued to experience a decline in operating performance which we believe can be attributed to a number of factors including the ongoing regulatory scrutiny of the postsecondary education industry, weak economic conditions and the lengthening of the student decision-making process. The Company is focused on a number of key areas which it believes will position it for a return to profitable growth in the future including positioning the Company to be more competitive in the ever-changing postsecondary education industry. We continue to operate in a very challenging environment as new student demand continues to slow, new students become more hesitant to take on debt given the uncertainty in the labor market and our industry continues to remain in the forefront of negative publicity. The attributes, skills and experience that our Board members bring to the Company must support the Company’s strategies and actions necessary in dealing with these regulatory and economic uncertainties.

The discussion below describes the key experiences, qualifications, attributes and skills that led the Nominating and Governance Committee to the conclusion that the director nominees are qualified to serve as directors of the Company at this time. However, this summary is not meant to be a complete description of all of the skills and attributes of the director nominees. Additional details on our individual director nominees are presented in their biographies under “Nominees” below.

Educational Services and Related Legal and Regulatory Experience.    The Company offers a comprehensive array of educational programs and operates in a highly regulated environment. Directors with experience in education and its regulation bring vital experience in understanding regulatory oversight and how it

 

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affects academics and operations. They can assist the Board (a) in identifying trends that may impact the Company’s operations, services or business model, (b) in developing compliance models and (c) in delivering academic services.

Strategic Planning and Growth Initiatives.    The Company has a diversified mix of educational offerings. The colleges, schools and universities that are part of the Company provide a variety of career-oriented disciplines through online, on-ground and hybrid learning program offerings at more than 90 campuses located throughout the United States and in France, the United Kingdom and Monaco, and offer doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s and associate degrees and diploma and certificate programs to more than 75,000 students. Directors with experience in strategic planning for large organizations help the Board to oversee the Company’s strategic planning process through identifying growth and other objectives; defining imperatives in compliance, service delivery and other areas; assessing the appropriate business models for our schools; and analyzing other critical strategic issues for the Company.

Investment Management and Other Financial Expertise.    The Board’s strategic planning oversight extends to reviewing and providing input on the Company’s annual and multi-year business plans. Those directors with experience in analyzing businesses and developing investment strategies from the investors’ perspective assist the Board in evaluating and establishing the Company’s business plans with the objective of creating value for stockholders.

Directors with experience in financial accounting and reporting, particularly for public companies, bring to the Board the financial expertise and financial literacy required to assist the Board in fulfilling its responsibility for oversight of the quality and integrity of the accounting, auditing, financial reporting and internal control practices of the Company.

Marketing.    The Company’s business model has historically been highly dependent on brand management and direct marketing, much in the manner that consumer companies market goods and services. Like other companies in the postsecondary education sector, the Company’s marketing programs are subject to extensive federal, state and local legislation, regulation and scrutiny. Directors with marketing expertise assist the Board in evaluating the Company’s marketing and brand management programs, in assessing alternative marketing approaches, in reviewing the impacts of regulatory requirements on our marketing efforts and approach, and applying similar considerations critical to the business models utilized to create organic growth of the Company.

Governance.    In discharging its duties, the Board is cognizant of its corporate governance responsibilities across numerous areas from its self-organization, director nomination process, executive compensation, stockholders and other matters. Directors who gain expertise in corporate governance trends from their other public company boards or other activities assist the Board in early identification of and decision-making on corporate governance matters.

 

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Board Skills Matrix.    The table below summarizes the specific qualifications, attributes and skills that led the Nominating and Governance Committee to the conclusion that the director nominees are qualified to serve as directors of the Company at this time. This summary, however, is not meant to be a complete description of all of the skills and attributes of the director nominees. Additional details on our individual director nominees are presented in their biographies; see “Nominees” below. An “X” indicates that the required expertise is a specific factor considered in nominating the individual to serve on the Board and, for incumbent Board members, is a specific area of focus or expertise on which the Board relies. Lack of an “X” does not mean that the director nominee does not possess the identified expertise.

 

     Board of Directors
Required Expertise   Louis
Caldera
  Dennis
Chookaszian
  David
Devonshire
  Patrick
Gross
  Gregory
Jackson
  Thomas
Lally
  Ronald
McCray
 

Scott

Steffey

  Leslie
Thornton
Educational Services and Related Legal and Regulatory Experience   x               x           x   x
Strategic Planning and Growth Initiatives   x   x   x   x   x   x   x   x    
Investment Management and Other Financial Expertise       x   x   x   x   x   x   x    
Marketing       x       x           x        
Governance   x   x       x           x       x

Board Leadership Structure and Role in Risk Oversight

In December 2006, the Board of Directors established a leadership structure consisting of an independent Chairman of the Board and a separate principal executive officer who is an employee of the Company. The Board, which was at that time considering candidates for the principal executive officer position and considering additional changes in the senior management team, felt that this leadership structure would both demonstrate the Board’s commitment to implement best practices in corporate governance and would allow the Board to effectively oversee and integrate a new management team with varying levels of experience in for-profit postsecondary education.

The Board believes that separating the Chairman of the Board and the President and Chief Executive Officer positions serves the best interests of the Company and its stockholders because it enhances communication among the Board and members of the senior executive team and enables the Board to more effectively oversee the Company’s strategy and strategy implementation. Mr. Lesnik has been Chairman of the Board since March 2008 and also served as President and Chief Executive Officer from October 31, 2011 through April 7, 2013. During and after the period that Mr. Lesnik held the positions of President and Chief Executive Officer, he is not an independent director. Therefore, the Board appointed Ms. Thornton as Lead Independent Director of the Board on October 31, 2011. In this role, Ms. Thornton presides at all meetings of the Board at which the Chairman of the Board is not present, including serving as the chairperson of the Board’s executive sessions of non-employee directors; serves as liaison between the Chief Executive Officer and non-employee directors; consults with, and provides input to, the Chairman of the Board regarding the agenda for Board meetings and meeting schedules; and otherwise performs duties as the Board may delegate to assist the Board in fulfilling its responsibilities. In addition, the Lead Independent Director has the authority to call meetings of the non-employee directors and is responsible for conducting exit interviews with resigning executive officers and such other persons as the Board deems necessary or appropriate.

The Board will select a new Chairman of the Board at or prior to the time of the 2013 Annual Meeting.

 

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The Board oversees risk management both through the Company’s enterprise risk management process and the internal audit function. In 2007, the Company’s Risk Committee was established. Currently, the Chief Executive Officer serves as the Chair of the Company’s Risk Committee, and the other members of the Company’s Risk Committee include the following Company officers: the Chief Financial Officer, the General Counsel, the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, the Chief Internal Auditor, the Chief University Education Officer and the Chief Career Schools Officer. The Risk Committee is intended to meet quarterly to review enterprise-wide, business-unit specific and other discrete topic risk surveys and assessments. The Committee then utilizes the survey results to identify and prioritize the Company’s top risks, and develop implementation plans to manage the risks. The Risk Committee reports quarterly to the Audit Committee regarding identified enterprise risks, risk assessment and mitigation, effectiveness of risk management and related matters.

The Chief Internal Auditor reports directly to the Audit Committee of the Board. The Company’s Internal Audit function prepares both annual and three-year audit plans identifying specific audit activities, scope and prioritization. These audit plans are developed utilizing the enterprise risk management survey results, the COSO framework for internal controls and the IT Governance Institute’s COBIT framework and are linked to the Company’s annual business plan.

Communications with the Board of Directors

Stockholders or other interested parties may communicate with the Board of Directors by sending a letter to the Board of Directors, c/o Corporate Secretary, Career Education Corporation, 231 North Martingale Road, Schaumburg, Illinois 60173. The Corporate Secretary will receive the correspondence and forward it to the director or directors to whom the communication is addressed. From time to time, the Board of Directors may change the process by which stockholders may communicate with the Board or its members. Please refer to our website, www.careered.com, under the captions “Investor Relations-Corporate Governance” for any changes in this process.

Code of Ethics for Executive Officers and Code of Business Conduct and Ethics

The Board of Directors has adopted a Code of Ethics for Executive Officers specifically applicable to our executive officers and senior financial officers, including our principal executive officer, our principal financial and accounting officer and our controller.

We have also adopted a Code of Business Conduct and Ethics to promote honest and ethical conduct and compliance with the laws and governmental rules and regulations to which we are subject. The Code of Business Conduct and Ethics is applicable to all of our employees, officers and directors. The Code of Business Conduct and Ethics also includes the Company’s Conflicts of Interest Policy, among other policies. Directors are expected to read this Code and adhere to its provisions to the extent applicable in carrying out their duties and responsibilities as directors. The Conflicts of Interest Policy provides, among other things, that it is improper for employees to do business with an individual that is not at “arm’s length” even if the employee has no financial interest in the transaction or arrangement; that employees shall not directly or indirectly have any interest in or have any personal contract, agreement or understanding of any nature whatsoever with suppliers, customers or other persons or entities doing business or negotiating to do business with the Company; that employees must bring any business opportunity encompassed under the Conflicts of Interest Policy to the attention of the appropriate Company official; and that employees are prohibited from engaging or participating, directly or indirectly, either as a principal, agent, employee, employer, consultant, stockholder, co-partner, board member or in any other individual or representative capacity, in the conduct or management of, or own any stock or other proprietary interest in, any business that is or may be competitive or seeks to do business with the Company, unless the employee has obtained the prior written consent of the Company. However, this policy allows ownership of up to 5% of the capital stock of public companies that are regularly traded on any national exchange or in the over-the-counter market.

 

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These Codes are available on our website at www.careered.com under the caption “Investor Relations.” Any amendments of these Codes will be promptly posted on our website. The Audit Committee is responsible for our compliance with these Codes and reviews issues arising under the Codes relating to any director, executive officer or senior financial officer. Only the Audit Committee or the Board of Directors can approve a waiver from these Codes for these individuals. Neither the Audit Committee nor the Board envisions that any waivers of these Codes would be granted for these individuals, but if a waiver were so approved, the waiver would be disclosed promptly on our Internet site and as otherwise required by the rules of the SEC and NASDAQ.

Transactions with Related Persons

The Board of Directors and the Company have established certain policies and procedures regarding review and approval of activities involving related-person transactions as defined under applicable SEC regulations. Related persons include anyone who is, or has been since the beginning of the last fiscal year, a director or director nominee, an executive officer, a stockholder owning 5% or more of our outstanding common stock, and any immediate family member or associate of any of these persons. A person’s “immediate family” includes his or her spouse, parents, step-parents, children, step-children, brothers and sisters, mothers- and fathers-in-law, sons- and daughters-in-law, brothers- and sisters-in-law, and anyone (other than a tenant or employee) sharing the person’s home. A person’s “associates” include (a) any corporation or organization (other than the Company or its subsidiaries) of which the person is an officer or partner, or is directly or indirectly the beneficial owner of 10% or more of any class of equity securities; (b) any trust or other estate in which the person has a substantial beneficial interest or serves as trustee or in a similar fiduciary capacity; and (c) any member of the person’s immediate family who has the same home as the person or who is a director or officer of the Company or any of its subsidiaries.

As stated in the Audit Committee charter, the Board has delegated to the Audit Committee the responsibility to review, approve or ratify any transactions with related persons required to be reported in the Company’s periodic reports with the SEC to determine if each transaction is in the best interests of the Company and its stockholders and is consistent with applicable legal or regulatory requirements. The Audit Committee meets quarterly with our internal audit department members to review the results of their monitoring of compliance with the Company’s Code of Business Conduct and Ethics (which applies to directors as well as all employees) and the Code of Ethics for Executive Officers. Monitoring procedures include the Company’s EthicsMatters Hotline for anonymous reporting of suspected violations of those Codes and entity level testing of key controls in connection with internal control over financial reporting and disclosure controls and procedures.

As discussed above, the Company’s Conflicts of Interest Policy, which is included in the Company’s Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, sets forth what business conduct, interests or arrangements of its employees may be improper, and what employees must do to bring any opportunity covered by the Conflicts of Interest Policy to the attention of the Company. See “Code of Ethics for Executive Officers and Code of Business Conduct and Ethics” above for further description of this policy.

As stated in the Nominating and Governance Committee charter, the Board’s Nominating and Governance Committee reviews the independence of and any possible conflicts of interest of directors and director nominees. The Nominating and Governance Committee performs this review at least annually in connection with information gathered from Directors’ and Officers’ Questionnaires and the director nominee selection process. Directors are required to disclose potential and existing related-party transactions in completing the questionnaire. Directors are also expected to disclose all potential related-party transactions to the Audit Committee and to the Board of Directors in compliance with the Audit Committee’s responsibilities regarding review of related-person transactions. Corporate legal and accounting staff also review all purchases, sales or other financial transactions between CEC and each outside director or nominee, and between CEC and any entity and affiliates of which a director or nominee is an employee, director, or trustee. Based on these reviews, there have been no related-party transactions which would require disclosure in this Proxy Statement except as set forth below, nor are we aware of any business or other relationship that, in the opinion of the Board of Directors, would interfere with the exercise of independent judgment in carrying out the responsibilities of a director.

 

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On July 16, 2012, the Company entered into an independent contractor agreement with Jeremy Wheaton, our former Senior Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of Colorado Technical University (“CTU”), in connection with his resignation from the Company to help ensure a smooth and orderly transition. The agreement provided that Mr. Wheaton would serve through the end of 2012 as a consultant to the Company. Pursuant to the agreement, Mr. Wheaton received compensation equivalent to his current salary and a partial subsidy of his health insurance premiums which reduced the monthly contribution he paid for the coverage to the same monthly contribution that similarly situated active employees of the Company paid for the same insurance coverage. He did not receive any bonus or additional compensation during the term of the agreement. The Company also agreed to amend the non-compete periods in Mr. Wheaton’s equity award agreements under the Company’s 2008 Incentive Compensation Plan to provide that the non-compete periods would expire on December 31, 2012. The Company paid Mr. Wheaton approximately $150,100 pursuant to this agreement. This agreement was approved by the Board of Directors.

 

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PROPOSAL 1

ELECTION OF DIRECTORS

The Board of Directors has nominated the nine director candidates named below. Each of the nominees is currently serving as a director of Career Education Corporation and is running for re-election, except for Scott Steffey, who was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company as of April 8, 2013 and is being nominated to the Board for the first time. If elected, the nominees for election as directors will each serve for a one-year term expiring at the Company’s 2014 Annual Meeting of Stockholders. The Board of Directors recommends that stockholders vote in favor of the election of all of the nominees named in this Proxy Statement to serve as directors of CEC. See “Nominees” below.

The Board of Directors has affirmatively determined that each of the director nominees, except for Mr. Steffey who is currently serving as President and Chief Executive Officer, is an “independent director” under the NASDAQ listing standards and is independent under NASDAQ’s listing standards applicable to his or her Board Committee memberships. In addition, Mr. Lesnik, who is serving as a director until the 2013 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, is not an “independent director” under such applicable NASDAQ listing standards due to his employment with the Company as President and Chief Executive Officer. The Board used Rule 5605(a)(2) of NASDAQ’s corporate governance listing requirements applicable to its listed companies and Rule 10A-3(b)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), as a guide in its independence determination.

If any of the Board of Director’s nominees is unable or declines to serve at the time of the Annual Meeting, the persons named as proxies on the proxy card will vote for the substitute nominee or nominees recommended by the Board of Directors or vote to allow the vacancy to remain open until filled by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors has no reason to believe that any of the nominees will be unable or will decline to serve as a director if elected.

 

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Nominees

 

Louis E. Caldera   Director since March 2013

Mr. Caldera, age 57, is a private investor and corporate director. He served as vice president of programs of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation from July 2010 until March 2012. Mr. Caldera was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress from June 2009 to June 2010, and served as Director of the White House Military Office in the Obama Administration from January 2009 to May 2009. Mr. Caldera served as a tenured faculty member of the University of New Mexico Law School from August 2003 to November 2008 and was president of the University of New Mexico from August 2003 to January 2006. Previously, he was vice chancellor for university advancement at The California State University, Secretary of the Army in the Clinton Administration and a California legislator. Mr. Caldera is currently a director of publicly-held A.H. Belo, a newspaper publishing and local news and information company, and a former director of publicly-held IndyMac Bancorp, Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co. Mr. Caldera received a Bachelor of Science from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a law degree from the Harvard Law School and a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School.

 

Expertise   Attributes and Skills
Educational Services and Related Legal and Regulatory Expertise   Mr. Caldera has experience in university administration, teaching and governance, including as a vice chancellor for the California State University, as president and a tenured law school faculty member at the University of New Mexico and as a former trustee of Claremont McKenna College; expertise in education policy at the state and federal level from experience as a California legislator, in the Clinton Administration and via service as a member of several national education commissions; experience in higher education policy and education philanthropy, including serving the educational needs of low income and traditionally underrepresented students; and, through his position with the Department of Defense, experience including matters affecting service member, veteran and military child educational matters. These perspectives make him a valuable resource to the Board.
Strategic Planning and Growth Initiatives   Mr. Caldera has significant experience and knowledge in the leadership of large organizations, accounting and finance, as well as governmental policy. He successfully led two large, complex public institutions with global missions through periods of growth and challenge.
Governance   Mr. Caldera’s public company board and governmental policy experience (including audit committee chairmanship experience) will serve to strengthen and broaden the Board’s collective governance experience, commitment and perspectives.

 

Dennis H. Chookaszian   Director since October 2002

Mr. Chookaszian, age 69, served as Chairman of the Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council, which advises the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”), from January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2011. Mr. Chookaszian was formerly the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CNA Financial Corporation. During his 27-year career with CNA, Mr. Chookaszian held several management positions at CNA’s business unit and corporate levels. In 1992, he was named Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CNA Insurance Companies, and in 1999 he became Chairman of CNA’s executive committee. Mr. Chookaszian retired from CNA in 2001. Mr. Chookaszian is currently a director of publicly-held Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, Inc., a provider of clinical, financial, connectivity and information solutions and related professional services for hospitals, physicians and post-acute organizations; CME Group Inc. (formerly known as Chicago Mercantile Exchange

 

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Holdings Inc.), a U.S. financial exchange; and Internet Patents Corporation, an on-line insurance provider. He also served as a director of LoopNet, Inc., an information services provider to the commercial real estate industry, from July 2006 to April 2012; and Sapient Corporation, a public global services firm providing digital marketing and business and information technology services, from January 2003 to August 2007. Mr. Chookaszian has a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from Northwestern University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from the University of Chicago and a Master’s degree in economics from the London School of Economics. He received certification as a public accountant in 1971 and also is a Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter.

 

Expertise   Attributes and Skills
Strategic Planning and Growth Initiatives   Mr. Chookaszian assists the Board and Company in assessing its growth strategies by providing transaction structuring alternatives, negotiating strategies and assessments of strategic value regarding potential Company acquisitions and dispositions. These skills were developed during his tenure at CNA, through his service on the advisory boards of a number of private equity firms, and through his involvement in the purchase or sale of more than 100 companies throughout his career.
Investment Management and Other Financial Expertise   Mr. Chookaszian provides in-depth financial expertise to the Audit Committee of the Board that is augmented by his knowledge of trends in financial reporting, financial regulation standard-setting and related global regulations. A national leader in the financial regulatory area, he served as the Chairman of FASAC (Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council) from January 1, 2007 to December 31, 2011. FASAC advises on issues related to projects on the FASB agenda. He is also a member of the Financial Crisis Advisory Group (“FCAG”), which advises the FASB and the International Accounting Standards Board about standard-setting implications of the recent global financial crisis and potential changes to the global regulatory environment. FCAG members are drawn from senior leaders throughout the world with broad experience in international financial markets and an interest in the transparency of financial reporting information. He has also served on many other accounting bodies, including the AICPA Group of 100, the FAS 95 Task Force, the FASB Financial Instruments Task Force, and the AICPA Insurance Industry Committee. Mr. Chookaszian also served as CFO of CNA Financial for 15 years.
Marketing   Mr. Chookaszian has an in-depth background in Internet marketing and has served on the board of directors of a number of firms involved in marketing to consumers and businesses. He has also been involved with a number of firms that provide consulting services to assist with Internet marketing.
Governance   Mr. Chookaszian brings to the Board in-depth knowledge and trend information regarding corporate governance, gained both from his experience on boards of very large and smaller public companies and his academic interest in corporate governance. He teaches corporate governance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, at Cheung Kong University in Beijing, China, and at IIPM University in India, and also teaches director education courses at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

 

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David W. Devonshire   Director since March 2008

Mr. Devonshire, age 67, served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Motorola, Inc., from March 2002 through his retirement in March 2007. Motorola, a global provider of integrated communications and embedded electronic solutions, had annual revenues exceeding $42 billion at the time of his retirement. From December 1998 until joining Motorola, Mr. Devonshire was Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Ingersoll-Rand Company, a global diversified industrial firm. From July 1993 until joining Ingersoll-Rand, he served as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Owens Corning, a global producer of residential and commercial building materials. Prior to joining Owens Corning, Mr. Devonshire served in financial positions with Baxter International Inc., The Mead Corporation and Honeywell International Inc. Mr. Devonshire is currently a director of publicly-held Arbitron Inc., a media and marketing research firm; Meritor, Inc. (formerly known as ArvinMeritor, Inc.), a global supplier of a broad range of integrated systems, modules and components to the motor vehicle industry; and Roper Industries, a diversified industrial company that produces engineered products. He also serves as principal financial adviser to Harrison Street Capital and is a director of MCR LLC, an investment of Harrison Street Capital engaged in the project management consulting business. He also serves on the advisory boards of LEK Consulting and CFO Magazine. Mr. Devonshire holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting from Widener University and a Master of Business Administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

 

Expertise   Attributes and Skills
Strategic Planning and Growth Initiatives   Mr. Devonshire offers the Board insights into various models of how corporate and line functions can and should interrelate with and inform strategic planning activities, financial performance and other critical corporate planning activities.
Investment Management and Other Financial Expertise   Mr. Devonshire provides in-depth financial expertise in overseeing financial reporting, internal controls and financial strategy within public companies, more particularly the preparation of audited financial statements, implementation of financial controls, external and internal auditing, and analysis and evaluation of financial statements. These skills support the Board’s oversight responsibilities for the Company’s financial statements and internal controls.

 

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Patrick W. Gross   Director since December 2005

Mr. Gross, age 68, has served as Chairman of The Lovell Group, a private business and technology advisory and investment firm, since 2002. Mr. Gross also was a founder and principal executive officer of American Management Systems, Inc., a computer applications software and systems integration firm, from 1970 to 2002. He became Chairman of its executive committee in 1982. He has served as chairman of the board of several companies owned by private equity firms. In addition, he served as Vice Chairman of Youth for Understanding International Exchange. Mr. Gross is currently a director of publicly-held Capital One Financial Corporation, a diversified financial services holding company; Liquidity Services, Inc., an operator of several leading online auction marketplaces for surplus and salvage assets; Rosetta Stone, a leading provider of technology-based language learning solutions; and Waste Management, Inc., a leading provider of comprehensive waste management services. He has also served on the board of directors of Mobius Management System, Inc. from 2002 to June 2007 and on the board of directors of Computer Network Technology Corporation from July 1997 to 2005. He attended Cornell University and received a Bachelor of Engineering Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Mr. Gross also earned a Master of Science in engineering from the University of Michigan and a Master of Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

 

Expertise   Attributes and Skills
Strategic Planning and Growth Initiatives   Mr. Gross has strong strategic planning expertise from his experience in founding and building numerous companies. He has particular expertise in leveraging information technology and advanced data analytics.
Investment Management and Other Financial Expertise   Mr. Gross’ background in financial reporting and financing of companies, both smaller NASDAQ companies and large multi-billion NYSE companies, provides him with extensive experience in planning and implementing financial management and other ERP systems.
Marketing   Mr. Gross brings to the Company extensive experience in direct marketing to consumers utilizing advanced data analytics.
Governance   Mr. Gross has a keen understanding of corporate governance initiatives and trends, practical methods of implementing corporate governance processes and best practices, and a focus on fiduciary responsibilities of directors and management, arising from his service as board chairman/lead director/presiding director of NYSE, NASDAQ and private companies and as chairman of audit, compensation and governance and nominating committees for a wide range of companies.

 

Gregory L. Jackson   Director since November 2008

Mr. Jackson, age 46, is currently a managing partner with Jackson Park Capital, LLC and co-manager of Oakseed Opportunity Fund (an SEC registered Equity Mutual Fund). From January 2011 to April 2012, he was a senior portfolio manager with Ensign Peak Advisors. Prior to that time, Mr. Jackson was an investment partner of Blum Capital Partners, L.P., which he joined in 2003, and where he had served as Co-Head of its Investment Committee, a member of its affiliate, Blum Strategic GP, L.L.C., and managing member of each of the following affiliates: Blum Strategic GP II, L.L.C., Blum Strategic GP III, L.L.C., and Blum Strategic GP IV, L.L.C. His responsibilities at Blum Capital Partners included sourcing new investment opportunities, managing Blum Capital’s investment portfolios, and overseeing the investment research process. Prior to joining Blum Capital, Mr. Jackson spent six years at Harris Associates LP where he was the co-portfolio manager of the Oakmark Global Fund (which received a Morningstar 5-star rating during his tenure) from its inception in August 1999 through October 2003. He also was a partner at Harris Associates LP and an investment analyst of domestic

 

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equities. Prior to joining Harris Associates LP, he was a partner, portfolio manager and investment analyst with Yacktman Asset Management. Mr. Jackson received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Utah and his Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago.

Mr. Jackson terminated his employment with Blum Capital Partners, L.P. and its affiliates in 2010. During Mr. Jackson’s tenure with Blum Capital, Blum Capital and certain of its affiliates beneficially owned more than 10% of the Company’s common stock. Mr. Jackson disclaimed beneficial ownership of the shares held by the various Blum Capital entities, except to the extent of any pecuniary interest therein. Mr. Jackson served as Senior Advisor to Blum Capital Partners, L.P. from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011. As a Senior Advisor to Blum Capital, Mr. Jackson provided investment and business advice with respect to certain portfolio investments in Blum Capital’s investment funds, including its investment in the Company. Mr. Jackson has no current investment or voting authority over any of Blum Capital’s investment funds. Mr. Jackson is a non-managing member of Blum Capital’s affiliates listed above, and remains eligible, to the extent of his vested interest, to receive a portion of the carried interest profits in the investment funds managed by these Blum Capital affiliates. As a participant in the carried interest, Mr. Jackson may be allocated a disproportionate share of the net aggregate profits (if any) from the sale of the securities of the Company (and other portfolio companies) held by these investment funds.

In connection with Mr. Jackson’s election to the Board in 2008, the Company and Mr. Jackson entered into an agreement pursuant to which Mr. Jackson agreed to promptly tender his resignation from the Board and any Committee of the Board on which he then sits if at any time after his appointment to the Board and any subsequent elections or re-elections to the Board, the Blum Group (as defined in the agreement), together with all affiliates of the members of the Blum Group, collective beneficial ownership of the Company’s common stock decreases to less than 15% or exceeds 24.5% of the common stock. In light of the termination of Mr. Jackson’s employment and subsequent Senior Advisor position with Blum Capital Partners, L.P. and its affiliates, this agreement was terminated in May 2012.

 

Expertise   Attributes and Skills
Educational Services and Related Legal and Regulatory Expertise   Mr. Jackson has an extensive background in analyzing and investing in the for-profit education industry, having worked closely with the managements and boards of directors of Blum’s portfolio companies to increase stockholder value by partnering with these companies to implement various financial, operational and governance initiatives. This experience enables him to bring to the Board deep knowledge of the industry and insights into linkages between various aspects of the Company’s business and stockholder value creation.
Strategic Planning and Growth Initiatives   Mr. Jackson’s role as a director at portfolio companies has focused on strategic growth and planning for public companies, which experience Mr. Jackson uses to assist the Board in its strategic planning activities. Mr. Jackson also has an extensive background in analyzing and investing in the for-profit education industry and provides the Board with investors’ views on education industry fundamentals and increasing stockholder value.
Investment Management and Other Financial Expertise   Mr. Jackson, as a career investment manager, brings the perspective of investors and his experience in analyzing businesses and developing investment strategy to the Company.

 

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Thomas B. Lally   Director since January 1998

Mr. Lally, age 69, served as the President of Heller Equity Capital Corporation from August 1995 until his retirement in October 2001. He also was an Executive Vice President of Heller Financial, Inc. and Chairman of its Executive Credit Committee since April 1995, with direct responsibility for the asset quality oversight of its portfolio of loan and equity investments. Mr. Lally joined Heller Financial, Inc. in 1974. Mr. Lally also serves on the board of trustees of Briarcliffe College, one of the Company’s schools. Mr. Lally received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Pace University.

 

Expertise   Attributes and Skills
Strategic Planning and Growth Initiatives   Mr. Lally provides the Board with strategic insights into planning and implementing growth and value creation for stockholders.
Investment Management and Other Financial Expertise   Mr. Lally’s extensive experience at Heller equipped him with the financial skills necessary to evaluate investments in other companies or in various aspects of the Company’s business. He provides the Board with a broad overview of many business ventures with differing business models and growth strategies that informs the Board’s analyses about the Company’s options.

 

Ronald D. McCray   Director since November 2012

Mr. McCray, age 55, is a private investor and corporate director. He served as chief administrative officer of Nike, Inc. from August 2007 until May 2009. Prior to August 2007, Mr. McCray worked for Kimberly-Clark Corporation, where he served most recently as senior vice president for law and government affairs from August 2003 until August 2007 and as its chief compliance officer from November 2004 until August 2007. Mr. McCray was an attorney at the law firms of Weil, Gotshal & Manges in New York and Jones Day in Dallas prior to joining Kimberly-Clark in 1987. Mr. McCray is currently a director of publicly-held A.H. Belo, a newspaper publishing and local news and information company, and ROI Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company formed to facilitate acquisition of businesses in the restaurant industry. He is a limited partner of Boston Championship Basketball, LLC and is a former director of Knight-Ridder, Inc. and Kimberly-Clark de Mexico, S.A. de C.V. Mr. McCray is also a member of the board of trustees of Cornell University, the visiting committee of Harvard Law School, the executive board of the SMU Dedman School of Law and the board of directors of Children’s Memorial Medical Center/Dallas, and was nominated by President Obama in May 2011 to be a member of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board and was confirmed by the Senate in November 2011. Mr. McCray received a Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University and a law degree from the Harvard Law School.

 

Expertise   Attributes and Skills
Strategic Planning and Growth Initiatives   Mr. McCray has strong strategic planning expertise from his strategic leadership responsibilities at Nike and Kimberly-Clark which assists the Board in its oversight of the Company’s strategic planning process.
Investment Management and Other Financial Expertise   Mr. McCray’s familiarity with the capital markets gained through his experience as a private investor and his oversight responsibility on the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board as well as his prior executive management positions provide both an investor’s perspective and practical input to the Company’s business plans.
Marketing   Mr. McCray has gained significant marketing insights through his executive management roles at Kimberly-Clark and Nike, two global consumer products marketing firms, as well as his involvement with other consumer-facing companies.

 

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Expertise   Attributes and Skills
Governance   Mr. McCray brings to the Board his diversified corporate governance experience gained from his past and present positions on various public company boards. His legal and compliance roles at multiple companies as well as the law firm experience he obtained practicing corporate and securities law adds a broad perspective and practical insight to the Board.

 

Scott W. Steffey   Director Nominee

Mr. Steffey, age 51, was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company as of April 8, 2013. Prior to joining the Company, Mr. Steffey has been the founder and president of Symposium Ventures, which has provided advisory services relating to the for-profit and non-profit education industry since 2005. From 2001 through 2005, Mr. Steffey held positions with Strayer Education, Inc., a public company providing post-secondary education services, as its Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer as well as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Strayer University. He served as an Executive in Residence at New Mountain Capital, LLC from March 2000 to March 2001. Prior to that, Mr. Steffey served for four years as Vice Chancellor of the State University of New York, one of the the largest public post-secondary higher education systems in the world. He is also the founder of the Charter Schools Institute, an organization that establishes competitive K-12 schools in New York State dedicated to providing improved educational opportunities for economically disadvantaged students. Previously, Mr. Steffey held senior management positions at NYNEX Corporation (a predecessor to Verizon) and American Express Company. Mr. Steffey received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Skidmore College.

 

Expertise   Attributes and Skills
Educational Services and Related Legal and Regulatory Expertise   Mr. Steffey’s many years of experience in various roles in the education industry brings extensive expertise from various perspectives to the Board.
Strategic Planning and Growth Initiatives   As the chief operating officer of Strayer Education, Inc., Mr. Steffey grew enrollments and expanded operations and facilities. As the senior operating officer of the State University of New York, he implemented broad economic, marketing and academic reforms. This experience will assist the Board in implementing and developing strategic initiatives for the Company.
Investment Management and Other Financial Expertise   Mr. Steffey, through his business Symposium Ventures, has been an advisor to hedge funds and private equity firms investing in the for-profit education industry, to investment banks managing transactions in the for-profit education industry, and to for-profit and non-profit education institutions. The insight gained from these roles and earlier financial investment experience will provide additional depth to the Board and aid in creating value for our stockholders.

 

Leslie T. Thornton   Director since December 2005

Ms. Thornton, age 54, has served as Lead Independent Director of the Board since October 2011. Ms. Thornton has been Vice President and General Counsel of WGL Holdings, Inc. since January 2012, having joined that company as Counsel to the Chairman in November 2011. WGL Holdings, Inc., a public retail gas and electric marketing firm and a design-build energy company, operates a regulated natural gas utility serving more

 

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than one million customers throughout metropolitan Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Ms. Thornton served as a partner with the law firm of Dickstein Shapiro LLP in Washington D.C. from 2004 until she joined WGL Holdings, Inc., and as a partner with the law firm of Patton Boggs, LLP from 2000 to 2004. Beginning with the Presidential Transition of 1992 and until 2000, Ms. Thornton worked with U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, first as Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor, and then as Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Education (“ED”). During her nearly eight years at ED, Ms. Thornton advised the Secretary on all ED matters, served as the liaison between the Secretary and the White House on policy, political, ethics, personnel and other issues; supervised the higher education administrative appeals process for the Secretary; and helped implement President Clinton’s education initiatives. Ms. Thornton was selected by the White House in 1995 to serve on the President’s White House Budget Working Group and in 1996 served in a senior role on President Clinton’s presidential debate team. In addition to her work at ED, Ms. Thornton founded the Educational Equity Institute and Capitol Education Fund, organizations dedicated to improving educational access and opportunity. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from Georgetown University.

 

Expertise   Attributes and Skills
Educational Services and Related Legal and Regulatory Experience   Ms. Thornton is knowledgeable in the legislative and regulatory aspects of postsecondary education from the policy and legal perspectives. She provides insight and strategic advice regarding trends and issues involved in the federal oversight of both public and private postsecondary educational institutions and providers.
Governance   Ms. Thornton provides the Board with expertise in governance from the standpoint of corporate legal compliance and corporate process controls to assist in assuring such compliance. She developed that expertise in her legal practice, which focused on counseling large corporations in complex internal corporate investigations, federal agency and congressional investigations, regulatory matters before federal government agencies, state attorneys’ general investigations and high-level executive branch policy and political work. She continues to develop such expertise in her capacity as Vice President and General Counsel of WGL Holdings, Inc.

The Board of Directors recommends that stockholders vote FOR all of the Board of Directors’ nominees for election as directors.

 

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COMMITTEES OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS

The Board of Directors has established an Audit Committee, a Compensation Committee, a Compliance Committee and a Nominating and Governance Committee, each composed entirely of directors who are “independent,” as defined in the NASDAQ listing standards. Each Committee has a written charter that is posted on our website, www.careered.com, under the caption “Investor Relations.” Each Committee reports to the full Board of Directors regarding carrying out the Committee responsibilities set forth in its charter.

The current Committee assignments are shown in the following table:

 

Director

   Audit    Compensation    Compliance    Nominating and
Governance

Louis E. Caldera (1)

           

Dennis H. Chookaszian

   x (Chairperson)       x    x

David W. Devonshire

   x    x      

Patrick W. Gross

   x    x (Chairperson)       x

Gregory L. Jackson

      x    x   

Thomas B. Lally

      x       x (Chairperson)

Steven H. Lesnik (2)

           

Ronald D. McCray (3)

           

Leslie T. Thornton (4)

         x (Chairperson)    x

 

(1) Mr. Caldera was appointed to the Board effective March 19, 2013 and has not yet been named to any of the Board’s Committees.

 

(2) Mr. Lesnik currently serves as the Chairman of the Board and is a non-voting participant in each of the Board’s Committees.

 

(3) Mr. McCray was appointed to the Board effective November 13, 2012 and has not yet been named to any of the Board’s Committees.

 

(4) Ms. Thornton was appointed Lead Independent Director of the Board on October 31, 2011.

Audit Committee

The Audit Committee, among other of its responsibilities:

 

   

Oversees our accounting and financial reporting processes, audits of our financial statements, the internal audit department, qualitative aspects of financial reporting to stockholders, related-party transactions and the Company’s processes to manage business and financial risk.

 

   

Retains and oversees our independent registered public accounting firm, including reviewing its independence.

 

   

Pre-approves all audit services and permissible non-audit services.

The Audit Committee is composed solely of directors who meet all of the independence standards for audit committee members as set forth in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the Exchange Act and NASDAQ listing standards. After reviewing the qualifications of the Audit Committee’s members, and any relationships they have with CEC that might affect their independence from CEC, the Board of Directors has determined that (1) all current members of the Audit Committee are “independent” as that concept is defined in Section 10A of the Exchange Act and as defined in the NASDAQ listing standards, (2) all current members of the Audit Committee are financially literate, and (3) Mr. Chookaszian, Mr. Devonshire and Mr. Gross qualify as audit committee financial experts under the applicable rules promulgated under the Exchange Act.

 

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Compensation Committee

The Compensation Committee, among other of its responsibilities:

 

   

Reviews and recommends to the Board the Company’s goals and objectives relevant to executive compensation; oversees that Company policies and programs align with those goals and objectives; and reviews relevant market data in establishing compensation and benefits.

 

   

Recommends to the Board the adoption or termination of any executive compensation or benefit plans.

 

   

Reviews, administers and recommends our President and Chief Executive Officer’s compensation for approval by all of the independent directors of the Board; reviews, administers and establishes the compensation of each of our other executive officers, based, in part, upon recommendations from the President and Chief Executive Officer; and for our officers other than our executive officers, reviews the President and Chief Executive Officer’s reports regarding incentive awards, termination arrangements and salary levels, which are established by the President and Chief Executive Officer.

 

   

Administers the Company’s stock incentive plans and other compensation and benefit plans.

See “Report of the Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors” and “Compensation Discussion and Analysis” below.

Delegation of Authority

The Compensation Committee Charter specifies that the President and Chief Executive Officer establishes incentive awards, termination arrangements and salary levels for officers other than our executive officers; the President and Chief Executive Officer provides periodic reports to the Compensation Committee on these matters.

The Career Education Corporation 2008 Incentive Compensation Plan authorizes the Compensation Committee to delegate authority to our President and Chief Executive Officer or Chief Financial Officer to grant equity awards within certain limitations. The Compensation Committee cannot delegate its authority for grants to our executive officers, to covered employees (generally the most highly compensated employees of the Company) within the meaning of Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”), to persons subject to Section 16 of the Exchange Act, and for awards intended to qualify as performance-based compensation under Section 162(m). The Compensation Committee’s guidelines for equity awards allow our President and Chief Executive Officer to make stock grants to new employees and existing employees (except those who are executive officers under Section 16 of the Exchange Act) of up to 100,000 shares of restricted stock or restricted stock units and up to 100,000 shares in the form of stock options during any 12-month period, with no individual award to exceed 10,000 shares.

The Compensation Committee and the Board also have established the Career Education Corporation Employee Benefits Committee to administer our health and welfare plans, our Employee Stock Purchase Plan (a Section 423 plan under the Code), our 401(k) plan and general employee benefits plans and programs (but excluding any plans or programs affecting solely our executive officer group). The Employee Benefits Committee is composed of four senior executives, who are our Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, the Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, the Senior Vice President of Tax and Risk Management, and the Senior Vice President and General Counsel. This Committee reports its activities and actions to the Compensation Committee on a quarterly basis.

Role of Executive Officer

The Chief Human Resources Officer, Chief Financial Officer and General Counsel generally attend each meeting of the Compensation Committee (except for its executive sessions without management present) to

 

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provide input regarding senior management’s view on our overall compensation programs, to provide feedback from key management on the forms of compensation and whether specific forms of compensation and specific performance measures and targets provide appropriate incentives for desired goals and objectives, and to provide the Compensation Committee with data concerning each executive’s experience, compensation and promotion history, development and other materials necessary or useful to the Compensation Committee’s deliberations. The President and Chief Executive Officer attends the majority of the Compensation Committee’s meetings (except for its executive sessions without management present) and submits recommendations to the Compensation Committee concerning performance and pay for the executive officers, excluding himself. As noted above, the President and Chief Executive Officer establishes incentive awards, termination arrangements and compensation levels for Company officers other than the executive officers.

Role of Compensation Consultants and Compensation Consultant Conflicts of Interest

As further described below in “Compensation Discussion and Analysis,” the Compensation Committee has retained Frederic W. Cook & Company, Inc. (“Cook”), an independent compensation and benefits consulting firm, to assist the Compensation Committee on executive compensation matters. Cook representatives attend most meetings of the Compensation Committee, including certain executive sessions without management present; advise the Compensation Committee on compensation trends and practices; prepare competitive market reviews on executive compensation levels; provide analyses and data compilations regarding executive compensation; and advise on executive pay recommendations for our executive officers.

The Compensation Committee has adopted a policy requiring its compensation consultant to be independent of Company management. The policy requires that the independent consultant:

 

   

Be retained and terminated by the Compensation Committee.

 

   

Report solely to the Compensation Committee.

 

   

Be independent of the Company.

 

   

Not provide any service or undertake any work for the Company other than that performed for the Compensation Committee, and as may from time to time be authorized by the Compensation Committee at the request of the Nominating and Governance Committee of the Board of Directors.

 

   

Not provide any unrelated services or products to the Company and its affiliates or management, except as allowed under the rules and regulations of the SEC and of any national stock exchange on which securities of the Company are listed.

The Compensation Committee performs a periodic assessment of its consultant’s independence in which it considers the nature and amount of work performed during the year, the nature of any unrelated services performed for the Company, the amount of fees paid for those services in relation to the firm’s total revenues, the consultant’s policies and procedures designed to prevent conflicts of interest, any business or personal relationships between the consultant and any Compensation Committee member or executive officer, and the amount of Company stock owned by the consultants working for the Company. The consultant also periodically prepares a letter for the Compensation Committee providing appropriate assurances and confirmation of the consultant’s independent status. In 2012, Cook did not provide any services to the Company beyond its role as independent consultant to the Committee. The Compensation Committee determined that the work of Cook as compensation consultant to the Committee does not raise any conflict of interest.

Management retained the services of the executive compensation practice of Towers Watson for 2012 to assist in the review and design of the cash-based retention program and the short-term and long-term incentive programs for 2013. Towers Watson met with various members of management over the course of the project and attended two compensation committee meetings in 2012. Towers Watson provided thought leadership, subject matter expertise and overviews of market practices. In 2012, Towers Watson also provided benefits consulting as

 

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part of a three-year consulting services agreement, administration of an employee engagement survey and consulting regarding action planning based on survey results, market data management services software, and market data as available through compensation surveys generally available to other companies. Management and the Compensation Committee reviewed factors relating to the independence of Towers Watson, including those noted in the paragraph above, and Towers Watson prepared a letter for the Compensation Committee providing information with respect to these factors. Management determined that the work of Towers Watson as compensation consultant to management does not raise any conflict of interest.

Compliance Committee

The Compliance Committee oversees our policies, programs and procedures to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations and the Company’s policies and advises the Board on the status of our compliance programs and ongoing developments relating to compliance matters, including education regulatory matters. In particular, the Compliance Committee is responsible for reviewing significant compliance risk areas and the steps the Company’s corporate compliance department has taken to monitor, control and report compliance risk exposures. The Compliance Committee’s area of responsibility also includes monitoring the effectiveness of, and recommending improvements to, the Company’s compliance program and reviewing the effectiveness of the Company’s system for monitoring compliance with laws and regulations relating to the administration of student financial aid and related matters. Further, the Compliance Committee is responsible for monitoring compliance with the Company’s codes of conduct and ethics, reporting compliance issues that may have significant financial implications for the Company that may be relevant to matters which the Audit Committee considers under its purview and monitoring procedures for the receipt, retention and treatment of complaints received by the Company regarding compliance matters.

Nominating and Governance Committee

The Nominating and Governance Committee identifies candidates who are eligible to serve as directors under the qualification standards set forth in our Corporate Governance Guidelines; recommends the structure and membership of other Board Committees to the Board of Directors; and considers corporate governance matters and periodically recommends corporate governance principles to the Board. The Nominating and Governance Committee also reviews potential conflicts of interest of prospective Board members, reviews and recommends to the Board the compensation and benefits of directors and takes the steps it deems necessary or appropriate regarding the oversight and evaluation of the Board and each Board Committee.

 

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DIRECTOR COMPENSATION

In connection with its evaluation of non-employee director compensation for 2011, the Nominating and Governance Committee consulted with Cook. In connection with this evaluation, Cook compiled director compensation information from other companies, as well as other information, including trends in director compensation practices. In consideration of the information presented by Cook, as well as other relevant information, the Nominating and Governance Committee recommended to the Board, and the Board approved a revised compensation structure for non-employee directors effective July 1, 2011. No changes were made to this compensation structure in 2012. Each non-employee director other than the Chairman of the Board will receive an annual retainer of $75,000, payable in quarterly installments. A non-employee Chairman of the Board will receive an annual retainer of $150,000, payable in quarterly installments. Each non-employee director who serves as a Board Committee chairperson will also receive an additional annual retainer of $15,000, payable in quarterly installments. An individual meeting fee of $1,000 will be paid to the non-employee directors, including a non-employee Chairman of the Board, for each Board and Committee meeting commencing with the 13th such Board or 13th such Committee meeting in the 12-month period following the annual meeting of the Company’s stockholders. The final quarterly payment with respect to a calendar year is contingent on the director having attended at least 75% of the aggregate of the total number of Board meetings (held during the portion of the year for which such individual has been a director) plus the total number of meetings held by all Committees of the Board on which such person served (during the portion of the year that the person served on such Committee). In the event the director has not achieved such attendance level, the director will forfeit the entire amount of the final quarterly retainer payment. This forfeiture provision does not apply to (1) Board or Committee meeting fees payable when the Board or Committee holds 13 or more meetings during the 12-month period following the annual meeting of the Company’s stockholders, or (2) equity awards (described below). All non-employee directors are reimbursed for their reasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred in attending Board of Directors and Committee meetings and associated with Board or Committee responsibilities.

In addition, each non-employee director receives an annual grant of stock options under the 2008 Plan on the date of our Annual Meeting of Stockholders. For the 2012-2013 director term, each non-employee director was granted stock options to purchase 16,000 shares of our common stock at the closing price of the common stock on NASDAQ on May 17, 2012. One-fourth of the options granted to each non-employee director vest on each of the grant date and the three successive anniversaries of the grant date, subject to continued Board service on each vesting date. Vested options are exercisable for ten years from the grant date unless a director ceases Board service, in which event early termination provisions apply.

Mr. Lesnik served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company from October 31, 2011 through April 7, 2013. Mr. Lesnik’s compensation as President and Chief Executive Officer is addressed under the headings “Compensation Discussion and Analysis” and “Executive Compensation.” During his service as President and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Lesnik did not receive any additional compensation as Chairman or as a member of the Board. If elected, Mr. Steffey, our current President and Chief Executive Officer, will be an employee director and therefore will not receive any additional compensation as a member of the Board.

On October 31, 2011, the Company appointed Ms. Thornton to serve as Lead Independent Director of the Board and has agreed to pay additional compensation at a rate of $20,000 per year during her service as Lead Independent Director.

Commencing January 1, 2010, in accordance with the Non-employee Director Share Accumulation Program, non-employee directors could elect to utilize all or a portion of their annual retainer fee and quarterly meeting fees to acquire shares of Company stock from the Company. These shares are acquired quarterly in arrears. No directors participated in the program in 2012.

Each director is covered by our directors’ and officers’ insurance policy and also has an indemnification agreement providing indemnification and advancement of expenses to the fullest extent permitted by Delaware law.

 

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The total compensation of our non-employee directors for the year ended December 31, 2012 is shown in the table below. Mr. Caldera joined the Board effective March 19, 2013 and therefore did not receive any compensation from the Company in 2012.

2012 Director Compensation

 

Name

   Fees Earned
in Cash
     Option
Awards(1)
     Total  

Dennis H. Chookaszian (2)

   $ 96,000       $ 65,206       $ 161,206   

David W. Devonshire (3)

   $ 82,000       $ 65,206       $ 147,206   

Patrick W. Gross (4)

   $ 97,000       $ 65,206       $ 162,206   

Gregory L. Jackson (5)

   $ 82,000       $ 65,206       $ 147,206   

Thomas B. Lally (6)

   $ 96,000       $ 65,206       $ 161,206   

Ronald D. McCray (7)

   $ 10,041       $      $ 10,041   

Leslie T. Thornton (8)

   $ 117,000       $ 65,206       $ 182,206   

 

(1) Amounts were calculated at the aggregate grant date fair value, excluding the effect of estimated forfeitures and utilizing the provisions of Financial Accounting Standards Board Accounting Standards Codification (“FASB ASC”) Topic 718—Compensation—Stock Compensation. See Note 16 of the notes to the consolidated financial statements included in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2012 for information regarding the assumptions used in the valuation of our equity awards.

 

(2) Chairperson of the Audit Committee. As of December 31, 2012, Mr. Chookaszian held options to purchase 248,000 shares of Company common stock.

 

(3) As of December 31, 2012, Mr. Devonshire held options to purchase 122,000 shares of Company common stock.

 

(4) Chairperson of the Compensation Committee. As of December 31, 2012, Mr. Gross held options to purchase 176,000 shares of Company common stock.

 

(5) As of December 31, 2012, Mr. Jackson held options to purchase 104,000 shares of Company common stock.

 

(6) Chairperson of the Nominating and Governance Committee. As of December 31, 2012, Mr. Lally held options to purchase 248,000 shares of Company common stock.

 

(7) Mr. McCray joined the Board effective November 13, 2012 and therefore received a pro rata annual retainer payment for the fourth quarter of 2012.

 

(8) Lead Independent Director and Chairperson of the Compliance Committee. As of December 31, 2012, Ms. Thornton held options to purchase 176,000 shares of Company common stock.

In December 2008, the 1998 Non-Employee Directors’ Stock Option Plan was amended to remove the Board of Directors’ full discretion to grant the non-employee directors who participated in that Plan the right to surrender all or part of a stock option award to the Company and to receive cash in an amount equal to the amount by which the change in control price per share exceeded the per share amount that the plan participant must pay to exercise the stock option award, multiplied by the number of shares of common stock for which the director exercised this right. The December 2008 amendment was made in order to conform this Plan to the requirements of Code Section 409A (governing deferred compensation arrangements).

Certain of our non-employee directors also hold options under the 1998 Employee Incentive Compensation Plan (the “1998 Plan”). In December 2008, these directors waived their right, in the event of a change in control of the Company, to surrender all or part of these stock options to the Company and receive, within 30 days of that notice, cash in an amount equal to the amount by which the per share change of control price, as defined in the 1998 Plan, exceeded the per share amount that the holder must pay to exercise the stock option award, multiplied by the number of stock options for which the holder has exercised this right. The Company requested the waiver in order that these options and the 1998 Plan comply with the provisions of Code Section 409A (governing deferred compensation arrangements).

 

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On February 20, 2009, the Company entered into Option Extension and Amendment Agreements with the non-employee directors at that time (other than Gregory L. Jackson, who entered into a separate agreement discussed immediately below) regarding then-outstanding option grants held by them. These agreements amended the then-outstanding non-employee director option grants to (a) increase the stock ownership threshold upon which a change in control of the Company is deemed to occur from 20% to 35% and (b) extend the post-termination exercise period of these options to the earlier of (i) three years following termination of service and (ii) the original expiration date of the option, except in the case of termination of service at a time when cause (as defined in the 2008 Plan) exists.

On the same day, the Company entered into an Option Extension Agreement with Gregory L. Jackson, a non-employee director of the Company who holds Company options only under the 2008 Plan. The agreement extended the post-termination exercise period of his then-outstanding options to the earlier of (a) three years following termination of service as a director of the Company and (b) the original expiration date of the option, except no extension will be granted in the case of termination of service as a director of the Company at a time when cause (as defined in the 2008 Plan) exists.

The Nominating and Governance Committee has the responsibility to review non-employee director compensation on a periodic basis and to recommend changes to the Board of Directors.

Stock Ownership Guidelines

The Board of Directors expects non-employee directors to be active participants in improving stockholder value by maintaining a predetermined level of ownership of Company common stock. The Board adopted stock ownership guidelines, effective December 31, 2005, that set the non-employee director ownership target at five times the base annual retainer (excluding meeting and Board Committee fees). Non-employee directors at December 31, 2005 were allowed five years, or until December 31, 2010, to reach their stock ownership target. Non-employee directors joining the Board after December 31, 2005 have five years from the date of joining the Board to achieve their ownership target. The guidelines specify that the Chairman of the Board may determine to reduce future levels of stock awards or option grants to those directors not making satisfactory progress towards ownership targets, taking into consideration that extended blackout periods during which directors cannot purchase Company shares on the open market may restrict directors’ ability to accumulate shares.

The Nominating and Governance Committee Chairman conducts an annual review of each non-employee director’s progress towards the target stock ownership levels and communicates that progress to individual directors. Each of our non-employee directors as of December 31, 2010 met or exceeded such director’s applicable stock ownership target as of that date (other than Gregory Jackson, who has only served on the Board since November 2008 and, accordingly, pursuant to these stock ownership guidelines, was not yet required to have met (and is not yet required to meet) his applicable stock ownership target). Due in part to the changes made during 2011 to our non-employee director compensation structure, including the increase in the annual retainer paid to non-employee directors, as well as fluctuations in stock value during 2011 and 2012, none of those directors have maintained achievement of the applicable stock ownership target as of December 31, 2012. In light of the changes made during 2011 to our non-employee director compensation structure and the changes in the Company’s stock price, the Nominating and Governance Committee has determined not to take any immediate remedial action. The Board of Directors is reviewing the terms of these stock ownership guidelines, particularly in light of the changes in 2011 described above.

 

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EXECUTIVE OFFICERS

Set forth below is a table identifying our executive officers at April 8, 2013, who are not identified in the tables entitled “Election of Directors—Nominees.”

 

Name

   Age(1)     

Position

Jeffrey D. Ayers

     52       Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary

Teresa Cotton Santos

     45       Senior Vice President and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer

Jason T. Friesen

     45       Senior Vice President and Chief University Education Officer

Daniel J. Hurdle

     47       Senior Vice President and Chief Career Schools Officer

Manoj G. Kulkarni

     47       Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer

Catherine M. Lespine

     51       Director General of INSEEC Group

Anthony A. Mitchell

     53       Senior Vice President and Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer

Colleen M. O’Sullivan

     45       Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

 

(1) As of March 29, 2013.

The Board of Directors elects our executive officers annually. The executive officers serve at the discretion of the Board of Directors. There are no family relationships among any of the directors or officers of CEC.

Jeffrey D. Ayers has served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary since December 2007. Mr. Ayers has extensive experience as a senior legal officer for large public companies operating in complex regulatory and financial environments, with a focus on compliance and transactional matters. From February 2005 until joining the Company, Mr. Ayers was the Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of NovaStar Financial, Inc., a NYSE-listed mortgage originator, servicer and securitizor, where he had responsibility for all legal, regulatory, compliance and corporate governance issues. From April 2003 to January 2005, Mr. Ayers was Vice President and Associate General Counsel with General Electric’s insurance subsidiary, which then had more than $10 billion in annual revenues, where he managed and negotiated domestic and international transactions and corporate financings, and advised on securities law matters, among other responsibilities. From 1999 to 2002, Mr. Ayers was Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Aquila Merchant Services, Inc., an NYSE-listed and leading multinational risk merchant, commodity trader and energy infrastructure developer and manager with annual revenues exceeding $25 billion. From 1996 to 1999, Mr. Ayers was managing partner of the London, England office of Husch Blackwell LLP. Mr. Ayers received a Bachelor of Science in computer science and mathematics from Graceland University and a Juris Doctor and Master of Business Administration from the University of Iowa.

Teresa Cotton Santos has served as Senior Vice President and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer since September 2012. From 1998 until joining the Company, Ms. Cotton Santos held various legal positions of increasing responsibility with Eli Lilly and Company, a global pharmaceutical company, serving most recently as Assistant General Counsel, Litigation and Legal Compliance, with responsibility for managing all aspects of litigation and developing strategies to mitigate risk. Prior to joining Eli Lilly, she was an Assistant Circuit Attorney in the Circuit Attorney’s Office of the City of St. Louis and an attorney at the law firm of Evans & Dixon in St. Louis, Missouri. Ms. Cotton Santos received a Bachelor of Arts from Wellesley College in Political Science and Africana Studies and a Juris Doctor from the Washington University School of Law.

Jason T. Friesen has served in various Senior Vice President positions since joining the Company in November 2007, including his current position as Chief University Education Officer (since July 2012) and prior positions leading the Health Education Group (February 2012 to July 2012), in Finance and Investor Relations

 

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(January 2010 to February 2012) and in Finance (November 2007 to January 2010). Mr. Friesen also served as Treasurer from November 2007 to July 2012. Prior to joining the Company, he served in senior finance positions including business unit financial management and financial planning. From November 2003 until joining CEC, Mr. Friesen held leadership positions within finance at Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Sears Holdings Corporation, a NASDAQ-listed Fortune 100 company and one of the nation’s largest broadline retailers. At Sears, he served as Vice President of Merchandise Finance—Hardlines, a business with approximately $20 billion in annual revenue; from March 2006 to August 2007, he was Vice President, Finance—Specialty Retail; from March 2005 to March 2006, he was Vice President—Financial Planning and Analysis; and from November 2003 through March 2005, he served as Director of Finance, Corporate Finance and Planning. From 2002 to 2003, Mr. Friesen was a Senior Manager at Bearing Point, a consulting firm, and from 1998 to 2002 was a Senior Manager at Arthur Andersen LLP. Mr. Friesen received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Indiana University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Chicago. Mr. Friesen is a certified public accountant.

Daniel J. Hurdle has served as Senior Vice President and Chief Career Schools Officer since June 2012. Mr. Hurdle has significant operational experience as well as considerable experience with complex business turnarounds. From October 2008 until joining the Company, he held senior positions with NASDAQ-listed Caribou Coffee Company, the second largest premium coffeehouse in the United States, where he most recently served as Senior Vice President of Retail Operations, leading Caribou’s more than 580 coffee houses and significantly improving customer satisfaction and developing new product strategies. From February 2008 to October 2008, Mr. Hurdle was the Senior Vice President of North American Field Operations for Weight Watchers and from November 2006 to January 2008 was Senior Vice President of Strategy & Business Development for Washington Mutual, where he led the financial institution’s development and execution of new growth strategies for multiple business and functional groups. Mr. Hurdle also held various leadership roles with Starbucks Coffee Company where he was Vice President, Existing Stores Portfolio from 2005 to 2006; Vice President, Retail Food Business from 2002 to 2005; and Vice President, Strategy and Chief of Staff to the President North America from 2001 to 2002. Mr. Hurdle received a Bachelor of Science in Control Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy and a master’s degree in Management Science from Cambridge University.

Manoj G. Kulkarni has served as Senior Vice President and Chief Technology and Innovation Officer since January 2012 and, from March 2008 through December 2011, Mr. Kulkarni served as Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer. From September 2007 through February 2008, Mr. Kulkarni served as an independent consultant for Eclipsys Corporation, a health care technology software and services company. From 2000 until September 2007, Mr. Kulkarni was the Vice President of Information Technology at Toys “R” Us, responsible for technology architecture and operations for all divisions of Toys “R” Us globally. From 1999 to 2000, Mr. Kulkarni was the Director of Application Architecture and Services at Toys “R” Us. Toys “R” Us is a worldwide retailing leader in dedicated toy and juvenile products. Prior to 1999, Mr. Kulkarni served in software and technology consulting positions at Unisys and Toys “R” Us. Mr. Kulkarni received a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical Engineering) from the College of Engineering, Pune, India. Mr. Kulkarni has decided to leave the Company effective June 3, 2013.

Catherine M. Lespine has served as Director General of INSEEC Group since February 2003. In 1986 she joined INSEEC Bordeaux as head of planning, audit and control. For ten years she taught certain programs within the INSEEC Group and at the Université Lyon 2 and ENTPE (the National School of Public Works of the State) in France while at the same time holding various positions throughout different institutions within the INSEEC Group before becoming Deputy Director of the Group in 1999 and Director General in 2003. Before joining the INSEEC Group she was Financial Controller of Paris Public Hospitals from 1983 to 1986. Ms. Lespine graduated from ESCP (Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Paris) in 1982 and received a post-graduate degree in Management Science from the University of Paris—Sorbonne.

Anthony A. Mitchell has served as Senior Vice President and Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer since May 2012. In this role, Mr. Mitchell leads corporate and employee communications, public affairs,

 

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government relations, industry affairs and community relations. From 2008 until joining CEC, Mr. Mitchell served as Vice President of Corporate Communications for ABM Industries Inc., a $4 billion publicly-traded provider of integrated facility management services, where he oversaw corporate communications, media relations, financial communications, public relations, crisis communications and employee communications in support of ABM’s 100,000 employees. Mr. Mitchell served as Executive Vice President of Robinson Lerer & Montgomery, a strategic communications consulting firm, from 2007 until 2008 and as Senior Vice President of Communications & Government Relations for Advocate Health Care, one of the nation’s largest hospital and healthcare systems, from 2005 until 2007. Other previous experience includes roles as Vice President of Corporate and Financial Public Relations for American Express, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs for then U.S. Housing & Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp and as Deputy Press Secretary for President George H.W. Bush. Mr. Mitchell earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Yale University.

Colleen M. O’Sullivan has served as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer since August 2012, as Senior Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer from July 2008 to August 2012 and as Vice President and Corporate Controller from January 2008 to July 2008. Prior to joining the Company, she held senior positions in the finance and public accounting fields. From August 2007 until joining the Company, Ms. O’Sullivan was the Vice President—Finance at Hewitt Associates, a $3 billion then-public company that is a global human resources outsourcing and consulting firm and from August 2005 to August 2007 was its Assistant Controller. From 2003 to July 2005, Ms. O’Sullivan held positions of increasing responsibility, most recently as Assistant Controller, with Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Sears Holdings Corporation, a NASDAQ-listed Fortune 100 company and one of the nation’s largest broadline retailers with approximately 3,900 full-line and specialty retail stores in the U.S. and Canada. From 2001 to 2002, Ms. O’Sullivan was an audit partner with Arthur Andersen LLP, at which firm she spent 12 years within the assurance practice. Ms. O’Sullivan received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois and is a certified public accountant.

Section 16(a) Beneficial Ownership Reporting Compliance

Section 16(a) of the Exchange Act requires our executive officers (as defined under Section 16), directors and persons who beneficially own greater than 10% of a registered class of our equity to file reports of equity ownership and changes in that ownership with the SEC. Based solely on a review of the forms we have received and on written representations from certain reporting persons that no forms were required for them, we believe that in 2012 our executive officers, directors and greater-than-10% beneficial owners complied with all applicable Section 16(a) filing requirements.

Involvement in Certain Legal Proceedings

On December 7, 2011, a derivative action was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Chancery Division on behalf of the Company naming the Company’s Board of Directors at that time as individual defendants and the Company as a nominal defendant. Plaintiff alleges breach of fiduciary duty and abuse of control by the individual defendants. Plaintiff asks for unspecified amounts in damages, interest, and costs, as well as ancillary relief. On August 21, 2012, the court denied defendants motions to dismiss, and granted defendants’ request for a stay.

On December 22, 2011, another derivative action was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of the Company naming the Company’s Board of Directors at that time as well as former employees Thomas Budlong, Michael Graham, Gary McCullough, Thomas McNamara and Brian Williams as individual defendants and the Company as a nominal defendant. Plaintiff alleges breach of fiduciary duty, abuse of control and gross mismanagement by all of the individual defendants and unjust enrichment by individual defendants Budlong, Graham, McCullough, McNamara and Williams. On March 16, 2012, defendants filed motions to dismiss the complaint. Plaintiff asks for unspecified amounts in damages, interest, and costs, as well as ancillary relief. On August 13, 2012, the court denied defendants’ motions to dismiss and ordered the parties to engage in certain preliminary discovery.

 

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On November 5, 2012, a third derivative action was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of the Company naming the Company’s Board of Directors at that time as well as Gary McCullough, Michael Graham, Colleen O’Sullivan, George Grayeb, Brian Williams, Thomas McNamara, Thomas Budlong, and Edward Snyder as individual defendants and the Company as a nominal defendant. Plaintiff alleges breach of fiduciary duty, waste of corporate assets and unjust enrichment by all of the individual defendants and violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act against defendants McCullough and Graham and of Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act against members of the Board’s Audit Committee. Plaintiff asks for unspecified amounts in damages, interest and costs, as well as ancillary relief.

 

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REPORT OF THE COMPENSATION COMMITTEE

OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS

The Compensation Committee of the Board of Directors is composed solely of independent directors, as that term is defined in NASDAQ’s listing standards, as well as under Rule 16b-3 of the Exchange Act and Section 162(m) of the Code. The Compensation Committee has reviewed and discussed the Compensation Discussion and Analysis included in this Proxy Statement with the Company’s management. Based on the review and discussions referred to above, the Compensation Committee recommended to the Board of Directors that the Compensation Discussion and Analysis be included in this Proxy Statement.

COMPENSATION COMMITTEE

Patrick W. Gross (Chairperson)

David W. Devonshire

Gregory L. Jackson

Thomas B. Lally

 

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COMPENSATION DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

This compensation discussion and analysis describes how the Compensation Committee of our Board of Directors oversees the design and administration of executive compensation programs and how and why the Committee made its compensation decisions relating to 2012 compensation for executive officers, including the named executive officers. For 2012, our named executive officers were:

 

Name    Title

Steven H. Lesnik

   Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Colleen M. O’Sullivan

   Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Jeffrey D. Ayers

   Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary

Jason T. Friesen

   Senior Vice President and Chief University Education Officer

Daniel J. Hurdle

   Senior Vice President and Chief Career Schools Officer

Michael J. Graham

   Former Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

This discussion is divided into the following sections:

 

  I. Executive Summary and 2012 Overview

 

  II. Compensation Philosophy and Objectives

 

  III. Setting Executive Compensation Consistent with the Company’s Compensation Philosophy

 

  IV. Competitive Positioning

 

  V. 2012 Compensation Decisions

 

  VI. Other Compensation and Benefits

 

  VII. Regulatory Considerations

 

  VIII. Corporate Governance

I. Executive Summary and 2012 Overview

Our compensation package for executive officers has generally consisted of a base salary, an annual performance-based incentive award payable in cash, and a long-term incentive award(s) granted in the form of equity. The Committee has selected these components as they align our executives’ interests with those of our long-term stockholders and motivate our executives to achieve the Company’s operational and strategic goals.

Business Environment

Entering 2012, the U.S. economy continued to lag in recovery from the financial recession. In addition, the Company and its competitors continued to face challenges in our industry. Expanding regulatory requirements, negative publicity and prolonged economic uncertainty, especially in the job market, have contributed to apprehension among current students and prospective students causing them, we believe, to deliberate longer over whether to make an investment in their education. Thus, we faced declining student enrollment and total student population across our schools.

During 2012, the Company focused on renewing relationships with our various accreditors and regulators and on realigning our schools for long-term success by refining our program offerings, bolstering technical innovation, investing in career services and simplifying our organization.

We expected the challenges facing us to affect student recruitment and enrollment as well as the Company’s 2012 performance, and this was indeed the case for 2012. In addition, these challenges and the uncertainty in the sector have created concern regarding executive and employee retention.

 

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While the Committee continued its focus on aligning pay and performance, in 2012 executive retention became an important objective, leading the Committee to approve cash-based retention awards for certain key employees, including the named executive officers, and to dedicate a higher portion of the annual equity grant to time-based awards.

Pay for Performance Relative to Our Business Objectives

The Committee considered these challenges and expected performance results when determining its 2012 compensation actions. In response, the performance measures used in the 2012 Annual Incentive Award Program (“AIP”) were selected to place greater emphasis on measures of student success (student retention), student satisfaction (student Net Promoter Score) and cultural imperatives. Student retention is a leading indicator of graduation, a key student outcome measure, and student Net Promoter Scores is a measure of the loyalty students express toward their school, which is a direct measure of how our “customers” rate us. In addition, the following compensation actions were taken relative to our executive officers, including the named executive officers:

 

   

Establish base salary increases in a range of zero to three (3) percent, excluding promotion increases and new hires;

 

   

Set performance targets under the AIP based on the 2012 operating plan with discretion to determine payments for performance above or below target;

 

   

Reduce the potential payments under the AIP by one-half and reduce the long-term incentive award targets by 25 percent;

 

   

Grant long-term incentive awards in the form of time-vesting stock options, weighted 25 percent, and restricted stock units, weighted 75 percent;

 

   

Respond to the objective of focusing leadership on the challenges facing the Company and the need to reposition the business by granting time-based restricted stock units to support our retention goals;

 

   

Certify award payouts under the AIP for the named executive officers in a range of 24 to 34 percent of the target award opportunities (including individual performance) primarily as a result of the Company’s financial performance falling below its operating plan;

 

   

Certify award payouts under the 2010-2012 performance-based restricted stock grants at zero as the Company’s financial performance fell below threshold, resulting in the forfeiture of these awards; and

 

   

Grant special cash-based retention awards which vest over an 18-month period to certain named executive officers and other key leaders to ensure leadership continuity as the Company navigates these changes.

Further, the Committee conducted a full review of our base pay, AIP and long-term incentive programs and made the following changes effective for 2013:

 

   

Base salary increases were generally delayed for all employees, including the named executive officers, from March 1 to September 1, 2013.

 

   

The 2013 AIP was redesigned to align with our 2013 operating plan and our three-year strategic plan and includes measures for Profitability (operating income), Growth (ending student population), Student Outcomes (student retention and placement) and individual performance.

 

   

Performance targets were set for each of these measures based on our operating plan or, in the case of placement rates, external criteria. Payout for performance above and below these targets is clearly defined.

 

   

The 2013 long-term incentive awards will include three vehicles for our executive officers, including the named executive officers: stock options (weighted 30 percent), time-based restricted stock units settled in cash (weighted 30 percent) and a cash performance-based award (weighted 40 percent). The

 

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performance-based award features relative Total Shareholder Return (“TSR”) as its sole measure and uses a three-year performance period. This award program clearly aligns with shareholder interests. The Committee determined to use a cash-based performance award and to settle the RSUs in cash because the use of equity would have resulted in a burn rate that was higher than the Committee’s guidelines.

 

   

Time-based restricted stock unit awards will vest over a four-year period and will be settled in cash. We believe that this approach encourages our leaders to focus on both the near-term and long-term actions needed to achieve our strategic plan.

Say-on-Pay

Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act enacted in July 2010 (the “Dodd-Frank Act”), the Company’s stockholders are entitled to vote at Annual Meetings of its stockholders to approve the compensation of the Company’s named executive officers, as disclosed in the proxy statement relating to such meeting. The Dodd-Frank Act provides that this vote is advisory only and is not binding on the Company or the Board of Directors. This vote is not intended to address any specific item of compensation, but rather our overall compensation policies as they relate to our named executive officers. Accordingly, stockholders were asked to vote at the 2012 Annual Meeting on the executive compensation policies and procedures for the named executive officers as described in the Compensation Discussion and Analysis in the 2012 proxy statement. This proposal, commonly known as a “Say-on-Pay” proposal, gave stockholders the opportunity to endorse or not endorse our fiscal 2012 executive compensation policies.

At our 2012 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, our “Say-on-Pay” proposal was approved by approximately 52% of stockholders voting at the meeting. This vote related to the 2011 executive compensation paid by the Company to our named executive officers as described in the proxy statement for the 2012 Annual Meeting.

The Committee reviewed stockholder and other stakeholder feedback along with the results of the 2012 stockholder “Say-on-Pay” in making compensation decisions during fiscal year 2012. In connection with the 2012 Annual Meeting, an institutional investment advisory firm identified one concern relating to our 2011 executive compensation, specifically with the separation arrangement for our former President and Chief Executive Officer, Gary E. McCullough. The Company addressed this concern by increasing the scope of its outreach process with stockholders, targeting our 20 largest institutional investors, to obtain feedback and answer questions. Generally speaking the stockholders with whom we spoke advised that the alignment of pay and performance, and clear disclosure describing performance metrics and explaining the linkage between pay and performance, are important considerations for them. While no specific component of our executive compensation program was altered solely on the basis of the vote on the Say-on-Pay proposal or stockholder feedback, the Committee believes the features of our 2012 and 2013 executive compensation program (including the program changes described above) are consistent with the views expressed by our largest stockholders.

II. Compensation Philosophy and Objectives

The Company’s philosophy is that compensation should reflect the Company’s and the individual’s performance, be well-aligned with the interests of stockholders, and that upside and downside compensation potential should exist based on the Company’s performance against pre-defined objectives. Accordingly, the Committee has designed our executive compensation program to achieve five principal objectives:

 

   

To attract and retain talented executives by providing compensation competitive with that of other executives of similarly-sized companies with similar complexity;

 

   

To reward executives for strong financial and operational performance by linking compensation to actual business results;

 

   

To differentiate and reward individual performance in the context of Company performance;

 

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To align executives with the long-term interests of stockholders by providing a portion of total compensation in the form of stock-based incentives and by setting target levels of stock ownership; and

 

   

To encourage long-term commitment to the Company.

The Committee used these principles to establish the use and purpose of each of the following compensation components:

 

Component   Purpose   Link to Performance
Base Salary   Provides a competitive level of fixed compensation needed to attract and retain talented executives; designed to provide a level of financial security  

Base pay levels are set taking into consideration an individual’s duties and responsibilities, experience and areas of expertise.

 

Pay changes are based, in part, on the achievement of specific individual performance goals.

Annual Incentive Award   Focuses and rewards executives for achieving key strategic goals, operational metrics, financial results and individual performance   Variable cash payments are based on the achievement of Company and, where applicable, organizational unit strategic goals, operational metrics and financial goals as well as on individual performance.
Stock Option Grant   Aligns executives with the long-term interests of stockholders and builds an ownership culture   Grant size is reflective of individual responsibilities and performance and future value is based on growth in stock price.
Performance-based Awards   Aligns executives with key long-term performance measures and rewards them for shareholder value creation   Grant size is reflective of individual performance and future value is based on achievement of performance targets and growth in stock price.
Time-based Awards   Provides for leadership continuity and encourages long-term commitment to the Company.   Grant size is reflective of individual responsibilities and performance, and future value is based on continued employment and growth in stock price.
Perquisites: Executive Physicals   Assesses the personal health of the Company’s leaders and allows them to address health concerns on a timely basis   Executive effectiveness is linked to personal health.
Other Compensation   Satisfies employee health, welfare and retirement needs and provides a competitive compensation package needed to attract and retain talented executives   Employee benefits plans allow employees, including executives, to focus on their job responsibilities and to achieve their performance goals.

 

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Pay Practices that Align with Stockholder Interests

The Company’s compensation programs align with the interests of our stockholders through the following actions:

 

   

No excessive change in control severance. The maximum cash benefit is equal to the participant’s base salary plus a pro-rated cash incentive payment.

 

   

No tax gross-ups.

 

   

No reload, repricing or options issued at discount. Options issued will not be repriced, replaced or migrated through cancellation or by lowering the option price of a previously granted award.

 

   

No special benefits or perquisites other than executive physicals (the Company eliminated the ExecUCare program effective January 1, 2012).

 

   

Ability to clawback annual and long-term incentive compensation.

 

   

Stock options are priced at date of grant.

 

   

No hedging or pledging of stock.

III. Setting Executive Compensation Consistent with the Company’s Compensation Philosophy

The Committee, with Cook’s assistance, annually reviews each component of compensation, including base salary, annual cash incentives and long-term equity incentives for each executive officer (including the named executive officers), considering the appropriate external benchmarks and internal valuation. As part of its decision-making process, the Committee:

 

   

Reviews data from market surveys and publicly available information to assess competitiveness and ensure that its compensation actions are appropriate, reasonable and consistent with its philosophy;

 

   

Targets total compensation in the market median range for similarly situated executives;

 

   

Ensures that equity compensation comprises a significant portion of total compensation for the executive officers consistent with the Committee’s philosophy of aligning executives’ and stockholders’ interests and to promote retention;

 

   

Considers the skills, experience and other factors that may impact the competitiveness of compensation for a given executive officer; and

 

   

Considers each executive officer’s contributions to, and overall impact on, the Company’s business objectives and results.

For the President and Chief Executive Officer, the Committee recommends compensation to the independent directors of the Board for approval. For the other executive officers, including the named executive officers, the Committee considers the recommendations of the Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer in making compensation decisions.

The Committee also uses tally sheets that provided details on base salary, AIP targets and payments and long-term incentive grants for the most recent year and the prior two years (where applicable). Tally sheets are created for each key executive and provide a broad view of value of each executive’s compensation arrangement.

IV. Competitive Positioning

For 2012 compensation determinations, assessments were made primarily against a comparison group of 25 companies in for-profit postsecondary education services, professional services, diversified consumer services, hospitality/leisure, and internet catalog and retail industries as selected by Cook and approved by the Committee.

 

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Cook reviews and updates the comparison group for continued appropriateness based on industry and company size, utilizing companies with annual revenues greater than $250 million and within a reasonable size range in various metrics, such as revenues, operating income, total assets, total equity, total employees and market capitalization. The comparison group selection criteria are also based on companies that have similar business characteristics, including competitors in the for-profit postsecondary education sector, and companies that use sophisticated online applications core to the business, utilize online marketing and are similar in terms of lead generation, lead conversion and sourcing candidates. The companies in the chart below were included in the 2012 comparison group. “Size” is based on the relevant company’s 2011 revenue and “TSR” refers to the company’s total shareholder return.

 

     Composite Percentile Ranking  
Company Name   Size     Profitability     Growth     TSR  

American Public Education

    6     73     59     52

Apollo Group

    81     77     39     32

Bridgepoint Education

    33     67     94     35

Capella Education

    17     74     60     19

Career Education

    50 %      49 %      51 %      65 % 

Corinthian Colleges

    40     50     72     5

DeVry

    53     71     73     48

Education Management

    63     33     55     47

Expedia

    76     28     29     46

Grand Canyon Education

    14     65     82     26

H & R Block

    79     67     12     45

International Game Technology

    57     51     27     21

ITT Educational Services

    42     87     57     49

K12*

    16     37     74     91

Las Vegas Sands

    94     28     62     50

Lincoln Educational Services

    19     48     70     46

Manpower

    78     5     15     61

Monster Worldwide

    37     15     20     36

Regis

    52     14     15     41

Robert Half International

    57     39     30     64

Starwood Hotels & Resorts

    89     52     47     66

Strayer Education

    28     84     50     18

Universal Technical Institute

    10     48     57     73

Weight Watchers International

    46     66     26     93

Wyndham Worldwide

    82     24     25     87

Wynn Resorts

    81     29     67     84
* Added for 2012 compensation comparison group purposes. The addition of K12 and the deletion of LifeTime Fitness was made to better align the peer company profile and organization size with the market in which the Company competes for executive talent. For 2013, the Committee determined to remove Las Vegas Sands, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Wynn Resorts and Wyndham Worldwide from the compensation comparison group. The Committee determined that these organizations were outside the reasonable size range it had established for 2013 comparison purposes.

 

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Because of the strong correlation between revenue and executive pay, Cook size-adjusts the competitive market compensation data and uses the median to set a targeted range for our pay elements, which is referred to as the market median range. That range is defined as within 10 percent of median for base salaries, within 15 percent of median for annual cash incentive targets, and within 20 percent of median for both long-term incentive targets and for total direct compensation. In addition to the above comparison companies, the Committee also utilized benchmark data from the 2011 AonHewitt Total Compensation Measurement Survey and the 2011 Towers Watson Executive Compensation Database. The AonHewitt Survey includes over 250 companies ranging in size from $250 million to over $100 billion in annual revenue. The Towers Watson survey includes over 400 organizations ranging in size from $250 million to over $100 billion in annual revenue. Data selected from these surveys is scoped based on Company revenue.

Based on Cook’s October 2011 report, over the prior three years, on average, the Company ranked in the median range of the comparison companies in terms of company size and in terms of financial and market performance. This competitive ranking indicates that the comparison group is a reasonable competitive benchmark and that the median range is an appropriate and fair range to target total direct compensation opportunities for the Company’s officers, with actual pay delivered dependent on Company and individual performance.

Relative to this competitive range, on average, total direct compensation opportunities for our executive officers, including the named executive officers, were positioned in the median range of the competitive consensus.

Cook also reported that the average mix of base salary, annual cash incentive and long-term incentive opportunity for our executive officers, excluding Mr. Lesnik, was generally representative of competitive practices, although weighted more toward long-term incentives than median competitive practices, which is reflective of the Committee’s emphasis on long-term performance.

Cook reported that the Company’s equity compensation grant practices ranked in the 75th percentile of the comparison group in terms of share usage run rate and equity compensation cost, as measured by absolute dollar amount and relative to pre-tax income, largely due to declines in grant practices at the comparison companies. The Company ranks in the median range of the comparison companies in terms of potential dilution overhang. The Company’s practice of using two to three grant types is consistent with about two-thirds of the comparison group companies using two or more grant types of long-term incentives.

V. 2012 Compensation Decisions

During 2012, the Committee’s decisions relative to compensation were primarily focused on aligning pay for performance. However, given the continuing uncertainty in the industry sector, the Committee also considered the need to retain key leaders across the organization.

Each section below provides details on the decisions the Committee made with respect to the various components of compensation for 2012 and the rationale for those decisions.

Base Salary

The Committee reviews base salaries annually in the first calendar quarter and sets executive base salaries within the market median range of base compensation for executives in similar positions and with similar responsibilities as the organizations in the Company’s comparison group. The Committee believes that this approach to setting base salaries furthers its primary objectives of attracting, retaining and equitably rewarding our executives, providing pay commensurate with responsibilities, experience and areas of expertise.

In February 2012, the Committee approved base salary increases for several of the named executive officers in a range from zero percent to 3 percent, which were effective March 1, 2012. Pay increases for these executive

 

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officers was based on an assessment of such executive’s achievement of specific performance objectives, the extent to which the executive exhibited the CEC Standards, the assumption of additional responsibilities, and market data, if available, for his/her role. In addition, the Committee approved increases for Mr. Friesen and Ms. O’Sullivan in connection with each executive’s promotion which was effective as of the date of said promotion. Pay changes for 2012 for each of the named executive officers are detailed below.

 

Named Executive
Officer
  2011
Base
Salary
  2012
Base
Salary
  Increase
Percent
  Commentary

Steven H. Lesnik

  $1,000,000   $1,000,000   0%   Mr. Lesnik’s base salary reflects the fact that he did not participate in the 2012 AIP.
Colleen M. O’Sullivan   $280,300   $355,000   26.7%   Ms. O’Sullivan’s pay change is reflective of her promotion to Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Jeffrey D. Ayers   $370,000   $380,000   2.7%    
Jason T. Friesen   $305,800   $355,000   16.0%   Mr. Friesen’s pay change is reflective of his promotion to Senior Vice President and Chief University Education Officer

Daniel J. Hurdle

  NA   $330,000   NA   Mr. Hurdle was hired in June 2012
Michael J. Graham   $441,000   $451,000   2.3%    

Annual Incentive Award Program for Key Executives

Several of the named executive officers participated in the 2012 Annual Incentive Award Program for Key Executives (“Key Executive AIP”). It was the intent of the Company that amounts that were earned under this program qualify as “performance-based compensation” for purposes of Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended from time to time (“Code”). This program established the maximum amount to be paid to each of the identified participants based on the achievement of at least $1 billion in Company revenue in 2012, subject to the Committee’s discretion to reduce the award of each participant. The Committee intended to use its discretion to determine actual awards consistent with the 2012 AIP as described below.

Annual Incentive Award Program

The Committee uses an annual performance-based incentive award payable in cash to align the compensation of approximately 1,400 eligible employees, including senior management and the named executive officers, with the Company’s short-term business objectives and financial performance. Employees are eligible to participate in the AIP if they are in specified pay grades and meet other eligibility provisions. The incentive-eligible pay grades and target award size correspond to market competitive levels of annual incentives for similar roles. Employees subject to the U.S. Department of Education’s incentive compensation regulations are not eligible to participate in this program. Based on their strategic and policy-making responsibilities, none of the Company’s named executive officers are subject to these regulations.

Target Award Practices. The Committee reviews the annual incentive target percent established for our executive officers, including the named executive officers, in connection with its annual compensation review in the first quarter of each calendar year.

Effective January 1, 2012, the Committee adjusted the annual incentive target percent established for Mr. Ayers from 50 percent to 60 percent based on changes in the market value of that role. In conjunction with their promotions, Mr. Friesen’s annual incentive target was adjusted from 45 percent to 60 percent and Ms. O’Sullivan’s was adjusted from 40 percent to 60 percent. These changes were effective on the date of their promotion.

 

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Given the expected decrease in the Company’s operating income in 2012 as compared to 2011, the Committee determined to reduce the potential payments for all eligible participants, including the named executive officers, to 50 percent of the target established for the role. Mr. Lesnik did not participate in either the 2012 Executive AIP or the 2012 AIP.

The AIP target award percentage and the adjusted percentage for 2012 for each of the named executive officers are as follows:

 

Named Executive
Officer
  AIP Target as a  Percent of
Eligible Earnings
  Comments
 

Annual

Target

 

2012 Adjusted

Target

 

Steven H. Lesnik

  NA   NA   Mr. Lesnik did not participate in the 2012 AIP

Colleen M. O’Sullivan

  60%   30%   Ms. O’Sullivan’s AIP target increased from 40% to 60% as a result of her mid-year promotion to Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Her actual AIP payment was adjusted accordingly.

Jeffrey D. Ayers

  60%   30%   Mr. Ayers’ AIP target increased from 50% to 60% based on market data for his role.

Jason T. Friesen

  60%   30%   Mr. Friesen’s AIP target increased from 45% to 60% as a result of his mid-year promotion to Senior Vice President and Chief University Education Officer. His actual AIP payment was adjusted accordingly.

Daniel J. Hurdle

  50%   25%   Mr. Hurdle’s actual 2012 AIP payment was adjusted to reflect his mid-year hire date.

Michael J. Graham

  75%   37.5%   As Mr. Graham was not an employee on December 31, 2012, he did not receive a payout under the 2012 AIP.

Performance Measures and Weights.    The performance measures used in the 2012 AIP were Company operating income, student retention, student Net Promoter Score (NPS), a newly-created Culture Quality Index (CQI), and individual performance (based on personal goals). Results were measured at the Company, Business Unit (refers to Career Schools or University Schools units), or at the Education Group (which refers to AIU, CTU, Culinary Arts, Design and Technology and Health Education) level.

 

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The weightings for each of the performance measures and the organization level that was used vary with each named executive officer’s position, as shown on the chart below. The data presented reflects the weighting as of December 31, 2012. As both Ms. O’Sullivan and Mr. Friesen were promoted in 2012, their actual AIP payment was pro-rated accordingly.

 

            Key Metrics         

Named Executive

Officer

 

Company
Operating
Income

    Student Retention     Student Net
Promoter Score
   

CQI

    Personal
Goals
 
    Company     Business
Unit
    Company     Business
Unit
     

Steven H. Lesnik

    NA        NA        NA        NA        NA        NA        NA   
Colleen M. O’Sullivan     34     16.5     NA        16.5     NA        16.5     16.5

Jeffrey D. Ayers

    34     16.5     NA        16.5     NA        16.5     16.5

Jason T. Friesen

    34     8.25     8.25     8.25     8.25     16.5     16.5

Daniel J. Hurdle

    34     8.25     8.25     8.25     8.25     16.5     16.5

Michael J. Graham

    34     16.5     NA        16.5     NA        16.5     16.5

General Calculation Methodology.    The annual cash incentive payable to any eligible participant is calculated generally by multiplying (1) eligible earnings by (2) the specified target award percent of the individual’s eligible earnings, by (3) the extent to which the applicable performance measures were met. Eligible earnings are based on base salary and exclude other payments made during the performance period such as allowances, incentive payments, bonuses, equity grants, reimbursements and similar items.

Performance Targets.    For the 2012 AIP, the Committee set performance targets based on the 2012 operating plan as well as historic results for the prior three years. Given the difficulty in setting performance targets and the effective range of performance around these targets for 2012, the Committee determined that payment for results above or below target for each performance measure would be determined solely at the discretion of the Committee. In exercising this discretion, the Committee would take into consideration overall results relative to the target as well as year-over-year improvement in results.

For the operating income measure, the Committee set a performance target based on targeted 2012 consolidated operating income for the Company. Operating Income for purposes of the AIP is defined as the aggregate of (a) the earnings of the Company (and its affiliates) as reported on the Company’s Form 10-K for the year ended on December 31, 2012 (which is prepared in accordance with the generally accepted accounting principles of the U.S), (b) the amounts paid pursuant to the AIP and the Key Executive AIP, and (c) such adjustment, if any, as may be made by the Committee in its sole discretion. For the 2012 AIP, the operating income target was set at $41.2 million.

Student Retention, which is a leading indicator of graduation, is a standard calculation which takes into consideration starting student population, new enrollments and student drops during the year. Performance targets for student retention were set at the Education Group level and were set taking into consideration historical student retention results and the 2012 operating plan. For Business Unit participants, results were calculated as an average of the results for the Education Groups within that business unit. For corporate participants, the student retention results were calculated as an average of the business unit results. While student retention was determined based on performance results as compared to the 2012 plan, the Committee did consider whether meaningful year-over-year improvement was achieved. For 2012, the Company Student Retention target was set at 67.3%.

 

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Student NPS is a measure of the loyalty students express toward their school when surveyed; thus it is a measure of how our “customers” rate us. Student NPS surveys are conducted by each Education Group at least twice each year. Under the 2012 AIP, performance targets were set for each Education Group taking into consideration historical NPS results. Achievement of this target was determined by taking the highest of the two survey scores for 2012 as compared to the performance target. For Business Unit participants, the NPS results were calculated as a weighted average of the results for the Education Groups within that business unit. For corporate participants, the NPS results were calculated as an average of the business unit results. For 2012, the Company Student NPS was set at 30.2.

The CQI is a qualitative and quantitative assessment which takes into consideration various factors including, but not limited to, employee turnover, engagement and exit surveys, and trends in employee relations (as determined by the Committee). The Committee intended to determine results relative to the CQI by looking at a number of factors to determine whether or not the Company is making meaningful progress in shifting its culture to one that is aligned with and enables the Company’s mission to be an effective, efficient and trustworthy adult educator, leading America in quality and applying technology to learning, thus no specific target was set for this measure.

The Personal Goals component consisted of individual performance goals related to the key strategic objectives for the applicable function/Education Group and were based on the individual’s job responsibilities. Goals were developed for each participant in partnership with the participant’s manager.

In addition, the Committee had the authority to reduce or even eliminate 2012 AIP payouts for individual campuses, Business Units, Education Groups, departments or the entire Company in response to compliance failures.

2012 Performance Results and Actual Payouts.    In the first quarter of 2013, the Committee reviewed and certified the Company’s operating income results and performance against the established targets and determined payments for each measure as follows:

 

   

Operating Income: The Company did not achieve the target level of consolidated Company operating income for 2012. As such, the Committee determined not to make a payment under this component of the AIP.

 

   

Student Retention: The Education Groups within the University business unit did not achieve their targets set for student retention. Two of the three Education Groups within the Career Schools business unit did not achieve their targets and one Education Group slightly exceeded its target. Although both the University and Career Schools business unit results were below their respective targets relative to student retention, the Committee, in its discretion, determined to pay at 25 percent of target for University and at 42 percent of target for Career Schools based on the year-over-year improvement in these results. Payment at the Company level was determined by averaging the results achieved by the Business Units and, thus, paid out at 34 percent of target.

 

   

Student NPS: The Education Groups within the University business unit each met their targets for Student NPS, resulting in a payout at target (100 percent). Two of the three Education Groups within the Career Schools business unit met their targets, resulting in a payout, as determined by the Committee, at 67 percent of target. Also based on these results, the Committee determined to pay 80 percent of target at the Company level, which is an average of the Business Unit payouts.

 

   

CQI: While the CQI included specific metrics, payout under this component was also based on a qualitative assessment as determined by the Committee and under the advisement of Mr. Lesnik. Based on actual performance results as compared to the various targets as well as taking into consideration the progress made in aligning our culture with our overall mission, the Committee determined to payout at 75 percent of target for this component.

 

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The portion of the named executive officer’s incentive award tied to personal goals was based on satisfaction of performance goals established for each named executive officer. These goals were set at the beginning of the year or, in the case of new hires, within 30 days of their start date. In 2012, goals for named executive officers included, among other objectives, effectively and efficiently managing litigation, achieving certain outcomes with our accreditors including vacating the “show-cause” placed on some of our campuses by ACICS and ACCSC, establishing a strategy to ensure sustainable compliance with the Department of Education’s 90/10 regulation, executing specific initiatives to improve and independently verify student placements, improving student retention, developing a three-year strategic plan, identifying near-term and sustainable cost reductions, evaluating and identifying campuses that should be taught-out, realigning the organization to the new strategy and assessing, developing and building our leadership talent. Mr. Lesnik evaluated the performance of each named executive officer other than himself and recommended to the Committee a payout ranging from 100 percent to 200 percent of the personal goals component for each named executive officer as all individual goals were either achieved or exceeded. Mr. Friesen earned a payout at 200 percent for the individual goal component due to his leadership of the Health Education Group through the challenges it faced in 2012.

 

   

Reflecting the significant progress made in rebuilding relationships with various accreditors and regulators and the absence of any material compliance events, the Committee determined to not modify the awards to any executive officers, including the named executive officers, for compliance results.

Thus, for each of the named executive officers attainment of each performance measure was as follows:

 

Named Executive
Officer
  Company
Operating
Income
  Key Metrics   Actual
Payout as a
Percent of
Target*
    Student Retention   Student Net Promoter Score   CQI  
    Company   Business
Segment
  Company   Business
Segment
   

Steven H. Lesnik

             

Colleen M. O’Sullivan

  0%   34%     80%     75%   28%

Jeffrey D. Ayers

  0%   34%     80%     75%   26%

Jason T. Friesen

  0%   34%   25%   80%   100%   75%   34%

Daniel J. Hurdle

  0%   34%   42%   80%   67%   75%   24%
*Calculation includes the individual component.

As Mr. Friesen was promoted during 2012, his actual AIP payment was pro-rated based on Corporate, University Business Unit and Health Education Group results.

As a result of these levels of attainment, the Committee determined to pay to each named executive officer the amounts shown in the 2012 Summary Compensation Table, under the column heading “Non-Equity Incentive Plan Compensation.”

Long-Term Incentive Compensation Program

The Committee uses equity-based long-term incentive awards to align executives’ interests with the long-term interests of our stockholders and to build an ownership culture among our senior management and executive officers, including the named executive officers, based on its belief that stock ownership encourages our executive officers to achieve long-term Company business objectives.

Equity Award Grant Practices.    The Committee generally grants annual equity awards to eligible employees, including our executive officers and the named executive officers, during the first quarter of each calendar year. New hire grants for executive officers and other leadership roles may be made in connection with offers of employment.

 

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The Company’s 2008 Incentive Compensation Plan (the “2008 Plan”) permits the grant of stock options, stock appreciation rights, restricted shares, restricted stock units, performance shares and other stock-based awards. No dividend equivalents accrue or are paid on stock options and, because the Board has neither declared nor paid dividends, no dividends have been paid on or accrued for restricted stock awards.

The Committee’s guidelines for equity awards specify procedures and timing of granting equity awards relative to publicly available information about the Company, establish the exercise price of stock option awards at the grant date closing price of our common stock as reported on NASDAQ, and, by delegation of authority, allow our President and Chief Executive Officer to make stock grants to new and existing employees (except those who are executive officers under Section 16 of the Exchange Act) of up to 10,000 shares per award with an aggregate limit of 200,000 shares in any 12-month period, of which up to 100,000 shares can be awarded in the form of restricted stock awards or units and up to 100,000 shares in the form of stock option grants.

2012 Equity Grant to Mr. Lesnik.    In March 2012, the Committee reviewed Mr. Lesnik’s compensation arrangement in light of the fact that he was anticipated to serve in the chief executive officer role for at least the balance of 2012. As a result, Mr. Lesnik received an equity grant consisting of performance-based restricted stock units, a stock option grant, and price-vesting stock options, as summarized below.

 

Equity Vehicle   Target Value
of Award at
Grant
  Number of
Shares/Units
Granted
    Equity Terms
Performance- based RSUs   $1,000,000     114,811     

Vesting of the performance-based RSUs is conditioned on the attainment of $1.25 billion in revenue for fiscal year 2012. Given the interim nature of Mr. Lesnik’s role as President and Chief Executive Officer, the Committee set a one-year performance goal for this award.

 

Based on 2012 results, this award vested in its entirety on March 1, 2013.

Stock Option Grant   $500,000     114,811      Subject to 1-year service vesting following grant date. The exercise price for this grant is $8.63.
Price Vesting Stock Option Grant   $500,000     143,513      This grant will vest if during any 90 calendar-day period the closing stock price is equal to or greater than $30 for any 30 trading days within the 90-day period. The measurement period commenced March 1, 2012 and ends February 28, 2015. The exercise price for this grant is $8.63.

2012 Equity Grants (Except Mr. Lesnik).    In March 2012, the Committee awarded annual equity-based long-term incentives to our named executive officers and other equity-eligible employees under the 2008 Plan. The awards to the named executive officers provided a value split between stock option grants and time-based restricted stock units. In setting the dollar value of these awards, the Committee considered long-term equity award data provided by Cook, the Committee’s goal of paying a total compensation package within the market median range relative to our comparison group’s grant amounts, the FASB ASC Topic 718 Compensation—Stock Compensation expense to the Company of the awards, the grant date fair value of the awards, and other matters discussed under “Regulatory Considerations.” In addition, in light of the expected financial results for 2012 and the significant decrease in the Company’s stock price which would impact the number of shares to be granted, the Committee reduced the long-term incentive award budget to 75 percent of these target awards. The Committee’s goal continues to be to balance shareholder interests with the need to retain leadership talent.

 

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As in prior years, the 2012 equity grants to named executive officers included one-year, post-termination restrictive covenants covering non-solicitation, non-disclosure and non-competition.

The Committee made the March 2012 equity awards to the named executive officers in accordance with the following target percent of base salary and value split between stock options and time-based restricted stock units:

 

Named Executive
Officer
  Equity Target as  a
Percent of Base Salary
  Stock
Option
Grant
  Time-based Restricted
Stock Units
  Annual
Target
  2012 Adjusted
Target
   

Colleen M. O’Sullivan

  80%   60%   0%   100%

Jeffrey D. Ayers

  140%   105%   25%   75%

Jason T. Friesen

  100%   75%   25%   75%

Michael J. Graham

  175%   131%   25%   75%

Mr. Hurdle did not receive an equity grant as part of the annual award process as he was not an employee at the time of the grant. As Ms. O’Sullivan was not a direct report to the Chief Executive Officer at the time of the grant, she received restricted stock units only.

The Committee determined to grant stock options and time-based restricted shares due to the need to retain senior leaders during this time of transformation and due to the difficulty in setting three-year performance goals.

The stock option grant to our named executive officers, excluding Mr. Lesnik and Ms. O’Sullivan, becomes exercisable in four equal annual installments commencing on the first anniversary of the date of grant, provided that the award recipient remains our employee on the date of vesting. Stock option grants have a maximum term of ten years. The exercise price of the 2012 grant is $8.63. The target number of option shares granted is derived first by multiplying the grantee’s base salary by the equity target from the table above times the weight noted above to determine the target grant value. This value is then divided by an estimated per-share fair value using the 90-day average closing stock price as of February 15, 2012 multiplied by 55 percent, which percentage is intended to approximate the Black Scholes value.

The restricted stock units grant to the named executive officers, except for Mr. Lesnik and Ms. O’Sullivan, consisted of time-based restricted stock units that vest on the third anniversary of the grant date. This vesting schedule aligns with the Committee’s goal of securing each executive’s long-term commitment to the Company. Mr. Lesnik’s 2012 equity grant is described above. Ms. O’Sullivan received time-based restricted stock units that vest in equal installments over four years. The target number of restricted units awarded was determined first by multiplying the grantee’s base salary by the equity target from the table above times the weight noted above to determine the target grant value. This value was then divided by the 90-day average closing stock price as of February 15, 2012 to determine the number of restricted stock units. As restricted stock units are considered “full-value” awards, the Black Scholes adjustment is not applicable. The number of time-based restricted units is further adjusted so that fractional units are not vested.

The following table summarizes the stock option and restricted stock unit awards granted to the named executive officers, except Mr. Lesnik, in March 2012.

 

Named Executive Officer   

2012 Stock Option Grant

(# of Option Shares)

   2012 Restricted Stock Unit Grant
(# of RSUs)
 

Colleen M. O’Sullivan

   NA      20,756   

Jeffrey D. Ayers

   20,364      33,600   

Jason T. Friesen

   12,020      19,836   

Michael J. Graham

   30,340      50,060   

 

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2010-2012 Performance-Based Restricted Stock Grant Attainment Assessment.    In 2010, the Committee granted time-based and performance-based restricted stock to a number of individuals, including several of the named executive officers. Mr. Ayers received performance-based shares only. One-half of the shares are time-based and will vest three years from the date of grant. The remaining shares were performance-based shares and the vesting of these shares was based on the attainment of three-year financial performance measures.

For the 2010 performance-based restricted shares, the Committee used two performance measures: target consolidated three-year cumulative operating income (as adjusted) of $1,426,000 and consolidated three-year cumulative revenue of $7,117,000. Vesting of 65 percent of the grant was tied to the extent of achievement of the operating income measure and vesting of the remainder was tied to achieving at least the minimum three-year cumulative operating income target ($1,251,000) and the extent of achievement of the three-year cumulative revenue target.

In the first quarter of 2013, the Committee certified that these performance targets were not met, which resulted in all shares being forfeited. Accordingly, Ms. O’Sullivan forfeited 3,536 shares, Mr. Ayers forfeited 17,272 shares, and Mr. Friesen forfeited 3,668 shares. Mr. Graham’s shares were forfeited upon his resignation. Mr. Lesnik and Mr. Hurdle were not employees of the Company at the time of this grant.

Other Equity Grants

During 2012, the Committee approved additional equity grants to certain named executive officers, as follows:

 

Named Executive
Officer
  Equity Grant   Reason for Off-Cycle
Grant
  Award   Vesting Terms  

Colleen M. O’Sullivan

 

7,929 stock option shares

 

13,083 RSUs

  4-year ratable

 

3-year cliff

  Ms. O’Sullivan received this grant in consideration of her promotion

Jason T. Friesen

 

8,885 stock option shares

 

14,660 RSUs

  4-year ratable

 

3-year cliff

  Mr. Friesen received this grant in consideration of his promotion

Daniel J. Hurdle

 

5,102 stock option shares

 

20,116 RSUs

  4-year ratable

 

3-year cliff

  Mr. Hurdle received this grant as part of his new hire compensation arrangement

2012 Cash-based Retention Awards

As the Company considered the challenges it faces relative to the changing, complex regulatory environment, the public opinion atmosphere and the general economic conditions facing the industry, the need to recognize the tremendous dedication and commitment required of its senior leaders and the need for leadership continuity became apparent. As a result, the Committee approved a cash-based retention program for certain senior leaders, including certain of the named executive officers. In consideration of receiving these awards, the participant is subject to certain restrictive covenants.

These awards were made on August 10, 2012 (“award date”). Participants were selected by Mr. Lesnik based on the participant’s role in leading the efforts to manage during this period of change and transformation. Awards were set as a percentage of the participant’s base salary (“Retention Target”). Mr. Lesnik is not a participant in this program.

Each participant’s target retention bonus was split in half. The value of the first half does not fluctuate (the “fixed payment amount”). The value of the second half (the “fluctuating payment amount”) increases or decreases based on the change in the result of the measurement formula (as described below) between the award date and the relevant measurement date.

 

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The fluctuating payment amount will be determined at each measurement date based on the relative change in the Company’s average closing stock price for the five trading day period immediately preceding the measurement date as compared to the five trading day period immediately preceding the award date. However, the result of the measurement formula for any measurement date may not result in a payment that would be less than 50 percent nor more than 200 percent of the result of such formula on the award date. The measurement dates are February 10, 2013, August 10, 2013 and February 10, 2014 with 16.67 percent, 33.3 percent and 50 percent of the applicable award, respectively, being payable. The variation in the vesting schedule is designed to reward participants for their commitment to the transformation of the business over the 18-month period.

In all cases, future payments are forfeited in the event a participant voluntarily resigns or is terminated for “cause” prior to a payment date.

Based on this structure, none of the amounts paid under the retention program would be considered “performance-based compensation” for purposes of Code Section 162(m). As a result, all amounts paid under the retention program will count toward the annual $1,000,000 deduction limit.

The named executive officers are eligible for payments under this program as follows:

 

Named Executive

Officer

  Target Award   Threshold   Maximum
  Percent of Base
Salary
  Amount    

Colleen M. O’Sullivan

  50%   $144,350   $108,263   $216,525

Jeffrey D. Ayers

  50%   $190,000   $142,500   $285,000

Jason T. Friesen

  50%   $177,500   $133,125   $266,250

Daniel J. Hurdle

  30%   $99,000   $74,250   $148,500

Michael J. Graham

  50%   $225,500   $169,125   $338,250

No amounts were earned or paid in 2012; therefore, no amounts relating to this retention program are included in the Summary Compensation Table. Mr. Graham did not and will not receive any payments under this program.

Other Cash Payments

Mr. Friesen received a one-time lump sum bonus payment of $25,000 in recognition of his contributions to the Company as Senior Vice President and President, Health Education. Mr. Friesen served in this role from February 13, 2012 through July 17, 2012, the date he was named Senior Vice President and Chief University Education Officer. Mr. Friesen received no pay increase for taking on these responsibilities in addition to his responsibilities as Treasurer and he made a significant impact on the Health Education Group in a short period of time.

As part of his employment compensation arrangement, Mr. Hurdle received payments to offset amounts forfeited upon his resignation from his then-current employer, as follows:

 

   

A cash signing payment of $107,600 to offset the reduction in his 2012 AIP opportunity and to offset forgone bonus opportunity from his then-current employer. Mr. Hurdle will be required to repay this amount in the event he leaves the Company of his own free will within the first year of his employment.

 

   

A cash payment of $257,833 to offset the foregone value of stock option grants from his then-current employer which were scheduled to vest on December 1, 2012. Said payment was determined based on the margin value between the option exercise price of $1.60 and the average trading price of Caribou Coffee Company on May 15, 2012 (the date he signed his offer letter). Mr. Hurdle will be required to repay the entire amount if he leaves the Company of his own free will on or before December 31, 2013.

 

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VI. Other Compensation and Benefits

Executive officers are entitled to the same employee benefits available to all full-time employees (subject to the satisfaction of minimum service and other eligibility requirements). Such benefits include health and welfare benefits, vacation and other time off, and our 401(k) Plan, including a Company matching contribution.

Certain of our executive officers, including the named executive officers, also receive additional benefits and perquisites, including a Company-paid physical examination for executives; an executive severance plan for those executive officers designated by the Committee to participate, which plan is described below in “Potential Payments Upon a Termination or Change in Control—Termination of Employment—Executive Severance Plan”; an executive relocation plan that provides for home sale assistance, temporary living expenses, reimbursement of certain home purchase expenses, rental assistance, moving expenses, spousal career assistance and tax assistance on certain taxable payments made to the executive; coverage under our directors’ and officers’ insurance policy; and indemnification agreements providing indemnification of, and advancing of expenses to, our named executive officers and certain other designated employees to the fullest extent permitted by Delaware law.

In the event of an involuntary termination, as part of his employment compensation arrangement, Mr. Hurdle is eligible to receive a severance payment equal to 52 weeks of pay based on his annual salary at the time of termination, as well as other benefits as specified in the Executive Severance Plan. This additional severance was included in consideration of his personal risk in leaving his then-current employer to join the Company during this period of transformation. We have also agreed to provide this additional severance to several other executive officers who joined the Company in 2012.

When the Committee reviews and targets our executive compensation program to fall within the market median range for total compensation of executives at companies in our comparison group, it generally does not compare and review benefits and perquisites relative to the comparison group, as it considers these benefits and perquisites to be relatively immaterial when compared to the other components of our executive compensation program.

VII. Regulatory Considerations

Federal income tax regulations and U.S. generally accepted accounting principles impact the cost and recognized expense of our executive compensation programs and influence the Committee’s design of our executive compensation strategies.

Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code includes potential limitations on the deductibility of compensation in excess of $1 million paid to the Company’s Chief Executive Officer and the three other most highly compensated executive officers (other than our principal financial officer) serving on the last day of the year. Based on the regulations issued by the Internal Revenue Service, we believe we have taken the necessary actions to ensure the deductibility of payments under the AIP and with respect to stock options and performance shares granted under our programs, whenever possible. We intend to continue to take the necessary actions to maintain the deductibility of compensation resulting from these types of awards. In contrast, restricted stock granted under our plans generally does not qualify as “performance-based compensation” under Section 162(m). Therefore, the vesting of restricted stock in some cases will result in a loss of tax deductibility of compensation. While we view preserving tax deductibility as an important objective, we believe the primary purpose of our compensation program is to support our strategy and the long-term interests of our stockholders. In specific instances we have, and in the future we may, authorize compensation arrangements that are not fully tax deductible but which promote other important objectives of the Company and of our executive compensation program.

A critical Code requirement for deductibility, in addition to the performance criteria, is that the Committee cannot increase the size of any payout or award, though it may have the discretion to decrease the size of payments and awards.

 

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The Company’s annual and long-term incentive programs have been designed and administered in a manner generally intended to preserve federal income tax deductions:

 

   

Under the Key Executive AIP, the Committee established the maximum cash incentive potentially payable to each named executive officer and specified other executive officers who potentially are subject to the Section 162(m) limits on deductibility. For 2012, the Committee established maximum incentives potentially payable provided the Company achieved at least $1 billion in revenue. In the first quarter of 2013, the Committee certified that the Company had met this revenue measure. The Committee then determined the amount of the 2012 annual incentives to be paid by applying the 2012 performance metrics as described under “2012 Compensation Decisions—Annual Incentive Award Program.”

 

   

Pursuant to the key executive long-term incentive award agreements, the Committee determined the maximum number of performance-based restricted shares granted in 2010 that may potentially be earned provided the Company achieved certain three-year operating income and revenue performance targets. In the first quarter of 2013, the Committee determined that actual results were below threshold and that all remaining performance-based shares granted in 2010 would be forfeited.

From time to time, the Committee has utilized time-based restricted stock as an incentive and retention tool. These awards may not be performance-based, in which case the awards may not be deductible as compensation expense to the extent the compensation amounts attributable to the time-based restricted stock award, plus any other non-performance-based earnings, exceed $1,000,000 in the year the shares or units vest. The Committee considers that time-based restricted stock and restricted stock unit awards further the best interests of the Company and its stockholders as the awards are an inducement to retain talented executives and to align their interests with those of our stockholders in increasing stockholder value. In 2012, the Committee made time-based restricted stock unit awards (consisting of both the annual grant and special grants) to the following named executive officers: Ms. O’Sullivan, 33,839 units; Mr. Ayers, 33,600 units; Mr. Friesen, 34,496 units; and Mr. Hurdle, 20,116 units. Mr. Graham was granted 50,060 restricted stock units, all which were forfeited upon his resignation.

The Committee administers our incentive, equity and severance plans to comply with federal tax rules affecting nonqualified deferred compensation, other tax rules and accounting rules, such as FASB ASC Topic 718 Compensation—Stock Compensation (which specifies the accounting treatment and cost of various equity-based awards).

VIII. Corporate Governance

Compensation Recovery Policy

The Board of Directors adopted a compensation recovery policy in January 2010. The policy requires, in all appropriate circumstances and to the extent permitted by governing law, the reimbursement of any annual or long-term incentive payment to a Company executive officer (for purposes of the Exchange Act) if:

 

   

The payment was predicated upon achieving certain financial results that were subsequently the subject of a material restatement of Company financial statements filed with the SEC;

 

   

The Board determines that the executive engaged in intentional misconduct that caused or substantially caused the need for the material restatement; and

 

   

A lower payment would have been made to the executive based on the restated financial results.

In each such instance, the Company will, to the extent practicable, seek to recover from the individual executive the amount by which that executive’s incentive payments for the relevant periods exceeded the lower payment that would have been made based on the restated financial results.

 

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Risk Assessment and Mitigation

The Committee has defined certain design guidelines for our compensation programs which are intended to mitigate harmful risk taking. As part of the Committee’s review of 2012 executive compensation, the Committee confirmed the effective implementation of these features and, based on the following assessment, concluded that the Company’s compensation programs do not encourage unnecessary or excessive risk taking:

 

   

Base salaries are fully competitive and are not subject to performance risk;

 

   

Incentive programs are carefully balanced between annual and long-term performance and cash and equity compensation;

 

   

Annual cash incentive and long-term equity incentive programs are capped;

 

   

Long-term equity incentive awards are weighted, with stock options vesting over four years for alignment with stockholders and time-based restricted shares/units used as a retention incentive;

 

   

Performance goals are recalibrated annually to maintain directional alignment with pay and performance relative to the Company’s historical performance and broader market performance and best estimates of future expectations;

 

   

The determination of incentive program performance results is subject to the Committee’s discretionary assessment of the appropriate treatment of unusual, nonoperational or nonrecurring items;

 

   

Executives and directors are subject to stock ownership guidelines;

 

   

Adoption of a policy to recoup improper payments or gains from incentive compensation paid or granted to executives; and

 

   

Prohibition of executives and directors hedging or pledging Company stock as described in the Company’s Insider Trading Policy.

Stock Ownership Guidelines

Our Board of Directors believes that the executive officers should be active participants in improving stockholder value by maintaining a predetermined level of ownership of our common stock. The Board initially adopted stock ownership guidelines in 2005 that require certain of our executive officers to own stock equal in value to a multiple of salary based on the officer’s position. Effective January 1, 2011, those guidelines were revised to incorporate retention and holding period requirements and to revise certain of the ownership targets, subject to transition rules for pre-2011 outstanding awards. The revised stock ownership targets (subject to certain transition rules) are based on the following multiples of base salary:

 

Role

   Multiple of Base Salary

Chief Executive Officer

   6

Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer

   3

Executive Vice Presidents and all other equivalent managerial-level officers directly reporting to the Chief Executive Officer

   2

All other Officers subject to the guidelines

   1

Subject to certain transition rules, officers subject to the guidelines must hold 100 percent of awards (net of shares withheld for tax withholding obligations or used to pay the option exercise price) acquired through the Company’s long-term incentive equity programs at or subsequent to becoming subject to the guidelines until achieving the applicable stock ownership target. After achieving the target, and for so long as such target is maintained, officers must hold 50 percent of any other awards (net of shares withheld for tax withholding obligations or used to pay the option exercise price) for one year from the date of vesting of restricted stock awards (and similar instruments expressed in stock units and payable in shares, as applicable) or from the date of exercise of stock options or stock appreciation rights (and similar instruments payable in shares).

 

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If an officer does not sustain the applicable stock ownership target due to fluctuations in stock value, he or she will again be required to hold 100 percent of net awards acquired through CEC’s long-term incentive equity plans until such officer again achieves the applicable stock ownership target, at which time such officer shall again be subject to the requirement to hold 50 percent of the net awards acquired through the Company’s long-term incentive equity plans for one year, commencing with the date of the attainment of the applicable stock ownership target. Each of our named executive officers is in compliance with the required retention ratio.

The Committee has discretion to reduce equity awards or to pay a portion of an executive officer’s annual cash incentive in the form of restricted stock to executive officers who are not in compliance with the retention requirements or ownership targets under the guidelines. Because of changes in the Company’s stock price, the Committee has determined to not take any immediate remedial action at this time regarding the attainment of the target levels of stock ownership.

 

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EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

The following table shows compensation of our 2012 principal executive officer, our current and former principal financial officers and the three other most highly compensated executive officers who were serving as our executive officers as of December 31, 2012.

2012 Summary Compensation Table

 

            Salary
($)
     Bonus
($)
     Stock
Awards
($)(1)
     Option
Awards
($)(1)
    Non-Equity
Incentive Plan
Compensation
($)(2)
     All Other
Compensation
($)(3)
     Total
($)
 

Steven H. Lesnik

     2012       $ 1,000,000       $      $ 990,819       $ 1,106,340 (5)    $      $ 15,316       $ 3,112,475   

Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer (4)

     2011       $ 166,667       $      $      $ 213,920      $      $ 124,000       $ 504,587   

Colleen M. O’Sullivan

     2012       $ 314,095       $      $ 228,709       $ 15,380      $ 41,247       $ 9,818       $ 609,249   

Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (6)

                      
Michael J. Graham      2012       $ 319,492       $      $ 432,018       $ 132,832      $      $ 10,000       $ 894,342   

Former Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (7)

     2011       $ 443,400       $      $ 1,406,730       $ 422,502      $ 142,884       $ 18,127       $ 2,433,643   
     2010       $ 437,650       $      $ 373,400       $ 474,039      $ 330,586       $ 15,643       $ 1,631,318   
                      
Jeffrey D. Ayers      2012       $ 380,733       $      $ 289,968       $ 89,156      $ 58,804       $ 14,500       $ 833,161   

Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary

     2011       $ 372,400       $      $ 217,434       $ 283,573      $ 79,920       $ 36,472       $ 989,799   
     2010       $ 368,483       $      $ 250,617       $ 318,188      $ 185,547       $ 31,928       $ 1,154,763   
                      
Jason T. Friesen      2012       $ 334,061       $ 25,000       $ 209,594       $ 62,840      $ 58,449       $ 10,000       $ 699,944   

Senior Vice President and Chief University Education Officer (6)

     2011       $ 305,567       $      $ 423,668       $ 167,416      $ 73,437       $ 27,250       $ 997,338   

DanielJ. Hurdle

     2012       $ 170,077       $ 365,433       $ 61,957       $ 8,018      $ 20,100       $ 75,851       $ 701,436   

Senior Vice President and Chief Career Schools Officer (8)

                      

 

(1) These columns show the grant date fair value of the restricted stock, restricted stock unit and stock option awards granted to our named executive officers, excluding the effect of actual or estimated forfeitures. For the portion of the restricted stock or unit awards that are subject to performance conditions, that grant date fair value is based upon the probable outcome of such conditions as determined at the date of grant and for all such awards shown, that grant date value is based upon achieving the target level of performance. If the performance-share portion of the stock awards reported above under the column heading “Stock Awards” were valued at the grant date based on the highest level of performance conditions being achieved, the grant date fair values for those stock awards for the named executive officers would be as follows:

 

Name

   Award
Year
     Performance-
Based Restricted
Stock or Unit Value

at Maximum
Attainment
    Time-Based
Restricted
Stock or Unit Value
     Stock
Awards
 

Steven H. Lesnik

     2012       $ 990,819 (a)    $      $ 990,819   
     2011       $     $      $  

Colleen M. O’Sullivan

     2012       $     $ 228,709       $ 228,709   

Michael J. Graham

     2012       $     $ 432,018       $ 432,018   
     2011       $ 283,400      $ 1,244,796       $ 1,528,196   
     2010       $ 746,801      $      $ 746,801   

Jeffrey D. Ayers

     2012       $     $ 289,968       $ 289,968   
     2011       $ 190,227      $ 108,738       $ 298,965   
     2010       $ 501,233      $      $ 501,233   

Jason T. Friesen

     2012       $     $ 209,594       $ 209,594   
     2011       $ 112,292      $ 359,504       $ 471,796   

Daniel J. Hurdle

     2012       $     $ 61,957       $ 61,957   

 

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  (a) Mr. Lesnik’s 2012 restricted stock unit award provides only for a single payout amount if the applicable performance conditions are satisfied. The probable outcome of the performance conditions as determined at the date of grant was that the performance measure would be achieved. Because there is no greater payout amount possible, the maximum attainment value is the same as the grant date fair value of this award at target performance.

See Note 16 of the notes to the consolidated financial statements included in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2012 for information regarding the assumptions used in the valuation of equity awards. In connection with Mr. Graham’s resignation from the Company effective September 14, 2012, he forfeited all of his (i) unvested restricted stock (valued at $1,780,130), (ii) unvested restricted stock units (valued at $432,018), and (iii) stock options (both unexercisable options and those that were not exercised prior to cancellation in accordance with their terms, collectively valued at $1,029,373), which were granted to him in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

 

(2) Annual cash incentives earned for any year are generally paid to the named executive officers in the first quarter of the following year.

 

(3) All Other Compensation for 2012 includes the following components:

 

Name

   Relocation
Expenses
     Tax
Reimburse-
ment(a)
     Other(b)      Total  

Steven H. Lesnik

   $      $      $ 15,316       $ 15,316   

Colleen M. O’Sullivan

   $      $      $ 9,818       $ 9,818   

Michael J. Graham

   $      $      $ 10,000       $ 10,000   

Jeffrey D. Ayers

   $      $      $ 14,500       $ 14,500   

Jason T. Friesen

   $      $      $ 10,000       $ 10,000   

Daniel J. Hurdle

   $ 51,021       $ 15,492       $ 9,338       $ 75,851   

 

  (a) Certain relocation expense payments are taxable to the employee. The Company reimburses the employee an additional amount to compensate for this.

 

  (b) Includes 401(k) plan contributions, the cost of company-paid physical examinations and, for Mr. Lesnik, $15,316 for term life insurance premiums. Information regarding non-discriminatory group welfare benefit plans is excluded from the Summary Compensation Table as permitted by applicable regulations.

 

(4) Mr. Lesnik served as President and Chief Executive Officer from October 31, 2011 through April 7, 2013.

 

(5) In 2012, Mr. Lesnik received time-based stock options and stock options subject to a performance condition related to the Company’s stock price requiring that the closing stock price is equal to or greater than $30 for 30 trading days within a 90 calendar day period during a three-year measurement period. For the stock options subject to this market condition, the Company employed a third-party valuation firm to value these awards. The option pricing model referred to as the “Monte Carlo” method was employed, which simulated approximately 50,000 outcomes of the company’s daily stock price over a period of three years, resulting in a fair market value of $2.13 share. The underlying inputs and assumptions used to arrive at the $2.13 per share, or total value of $305,683, included a volatility factor of 60%, a derived service period of 1.88 years and a forfeiture rate of 0.00%.

 

(6) 2012 was the first year that Ms. O’Sullivan was a named executive officer and 2011 was the first year that Mr. Friesen was a named executive officer. Accordingly, the compensation disclosed in the Summary Compensation Table for each of Ms. O’Sullivan and Mr. Friesen relates only to compensation for the fiscal years ended December 31, 2012, for Ms. O’Sullivan, and December 31, 2011 and 2012, for Mr. Friesen.

 

(7) Mr. Graham resigned as the Company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer effective September 14, 2012. The terms of his resignation from the Company are described below under “Potential Payments upon Termination or Change in Control.”

 

(8) Mr. Hurdle joined the Company, and first became an executive officer, on June 26, 2012.

 

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Grants of Plan-Based Awards in 2012

 

Name

  Grant
Date
    Estimated Future Payouts
Under Non-Equity
Incentive Plan Awards
    Estimated Future Payouts
Under Equity
Incentive Plan Awards
  All Other
Stock
Awards;
Number of
Shares of
Stock or
Units
(3)
    All Other
Option
Awards:
Number of
Securities
Underlying
Options
(4)
    Exercise
or Base
Price of
Option
Awards
(5)
    Grant Date
Fair Value
of Stock
and Option
Awards
(6)
 
    Threshold
(1)
  Target
(1)
    Maximum
(1)
    Threshold
(2)
  Target
(2)
    Maximum
(2)
       

Steven H. Lesnik

    03/01/2012                114,811                  $ 990,819   
    03/01/2012                143,513            $ 8.63      $ 305,683   
    03/01/2012                      114,811      $ 8.63      $ 800,657   

Colleen O’Sullivan

    03/01/2012        $ 74,402      $ 148,804                         
    03/01/2012                    20,756 (7)            $ 179,124   
    09/12/2012                    13,083 (8)            $ 49,585   
    09/12/2012                      7,929      $ 3.79      $ 15,380   

Michael J. Graham

    03/01/2012        $ 119,172      $ 661,500                         
    03/01/2012                    50,060 (8)            $ 432,018   
    03/01/2012                      30,340      $ 8.63      $ 132,832   

Jeffrey D. Ayers

    03/01/2012        $ 113,500      $ 444,000                         
    03/01/2012                    33,600 (8)            $ 289,968   
    03/01/2012                      20,364      $ 8.63      $ 89,156   

Jason T. Friesen

    03/01/2012        $ 85,718      $ 275,220                         
    03/01/2012                    19,836 (8)            $ 171,185   
    03/01/2012                      12,020      $ 8.63      $ 52,625   
    11/13/2012                    14,660 (8)            $ 38,409   
    11/13/2012                      8,885      $ 2.62      $ 10,215   

Daniel J. Hurdle

    06/26/2012        $ 42,519      $ 85,038                         
    08/03/2012                      5,102      $ 3.08      $ 8,018   
    08/03/2012                    20,116 (8)        $ 61,957   

 

(1) Shows estimated possible future payouts of these awards (when made) under our 2012 annual cash incentive award program. No threshold payouts are presented because no minimum amounts are payable for a certain level of performance. The program established payout amounts for achievement of target company and individual performance factors, and payments for performance above or below target for each performance measure were at the sole discretion of the Compensation Committee, subject to a designated cap for certain executive officers. For executive officers without a designated cap (Ms. O’Sullivan and Mr. Hurdle in the chart above), 200% of target was used as the Company believes it unlikely that the Compensation Committee would have exercised its discretion to approve payouts in excess of 200% of target. The performance measures and attainment are discussed in “Compensation Discussion and Analysis—2012 Compensation Decisions—Annual Incentive Award Program” above. Amounts actually earned by the named executive officers are shown in the 2012 Summary Compensation Table under the column “Non-Equity Incentive Plan Compensation.” This excludes the award granted to Mr. Graham under our 2012 annual cash incentive award program. As a result of the resignation from the Company of Mr. Graham, Mr. Graham was not an employee of the Company at December 31, 2012. Accordingly, Mr. Graham was not entitled to any payout pursuant to such award.

 

(2) In 2012, Mr. Lesnik received awards of performance-based restricted stock units and stock options which provide only for a single payout amount if the applicable performance conditions are satisfied. That payout amount is provided in the chart as the target. There are no threshold or maximum payouts for these awards to Mr. Lesnik. The performance targets and vesting provisions for these awards are discussed above in “Compensation Discussion and Analysis—2012 Compensation Decisions—Long-Term Incentive Compensation Program—2012 Equity Grant to Mr. Lesnik.”

 

(3) This column shows the number of time-vesting restricted stock units granted to each of the named executive officers during 2012 under our 2008 Plan.

 

(4) This column shows the number of stock options granted to each of the named executive officers during 2012 under our 2008 Plan. These options (other than the options granted to Mr. Lesnik) become exercisable in four equal annual installments on each anniversary of the grant date. Mr. Lesnik’s options became exercisable on the first anniversary of the grant date. Mr. Graham forfeited the unexercisable options from these 2012 option grants in connection with his resignation from the Company.

 

(5) This column shows the exercise price for the stock options granted, which was the closing price of our common stock as reported on NASDAQ on the grant date.

 

(6) This column shows the grant date fair value of the 2012 restricted stock unit and stock option awards granted to our named executive officers, excluding the effect of actual or estimated forfeitures. For the portion of the restricted stock unit and stock option awards that are subject to performance conditions, that grant date value is based upon the probable outcome of such conditions. Amounts are calculated in accordance with the provisions of FASB ASC Topic 718—Compensation—Stock Compensation. See Note 16 of the notes to our consolidated financial statements included in our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2012 for information regarding the assumptions used in the valuation of equity awards.

 

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(7) One-fourth of these awards vest on each of the first through fourth anniversaries of the grant date, subject to continued employment with the Company.

 

(8) These awards vest on the third anniversary of the grant date, subject to continued employment with the Company. Mr. Graham forfeited the unvested restricted stock units from these 2012 restricted stock unit grants in connection with his resignation from the Company.

 

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Outstanding Equity Awards at Year End 2012

The following table includes information as of December 31, 2012 about all unexercised options to purchase shares of our common stock and unvested restricted stock and restricted stock units held by the named executive officers.

 

         Option Awards     Stock Awards  

Name

 

Grant Date

  Number of
Securities
Underlying
Unexercised
Options—
Exercisable

(1)
    Number of
Securities
Underlying
Unexercised
Options—
Unexercisable

(1)
    Equity
Incentive
Plan
Awards:
Number
of

Securities
Underlying
Unexercised
Unearned
Options
    Option
Exercise
Price
    Option
Expiration
Date
    Number
of Shares
or Units of
Stock
That Have
Not
Vested
    Market
Value of
Shares or
Units of
Stock That
Have Not
Vested
(2)
    Equity
Incentive
Plan
Awards:
Number
of
Unearned
Shares,
Units or
Other
Rights
That
Have Not
Vested
    Equity
Incentive
Plan
Awards:
Market or
Payout
Value of
Unearned
Shares,
Units or
Other
Rights
That
Have Not
Vested
(2)
 

Steven H. Lesnik

 

3/01/2012

          114,811 (4)          $ 8.63        3/01/2022                     114,811 (5)   $ 402,987  
 

3/01/2012

            143,513 (6)    $ 8.63        3/01/2022                            
 

5/19/2011

    8,000 (7)      8,000 (7)          $ 22.13        5/19/2021                            
 

5/19/2010

    24,000 (8)                $ 30.67        5/19/2020                            
 

4/30/2009

    24,000 (8)                $ 22.04        4/30/2019                            
 

5/13/2008

    24,000 (8)                $ 18.64        5/12/2018                            
 

5/17/2007

    24,000 (8)                $ 33.96        5/16/2017                            
 

5/18/2006

    24,000 (8)                $ 30.80        5/17/2016                            
 

2/14/2006

    18,000 (8)                $ 34.86        2/13/2016                            

Colleen M. O’Sullivan

 

9/12/2012

          7,929            $ 3.79        9/11/2022        13,083 (9)    $ 45,921               
 

3/01/2012

                                  20,756 (10)    $ 72,854               
 

5/19/2011

                                  12,456 (11)    $ 43,721               
 

3/14/2011

    2,943        8,829            $ 21.80        3/13/2021        2,160 (12)    $ 7,582        1,079 (13)   $ 3,788  
 

3/03/2010

    4,820        4,820            $ 29.02        3/02/2020        1,768 (9)    $ 6,206        3,536 (14)   $ 12,411  
 

2/25/2009

    5,805        1,935            $ 26.15        2/24/2019                            
 

3/13/2008

    10,000                  $ 13.32        3/12/2018                            
 

2/25/2008

    5,000                  $ 15.32        2/24/2018                            

Michael J. Graham (3)

                                                        

Jeffrey D. Ayers

 

3/01/2012

          20,364            $ 8.63        2/28/2022        33,600 (9)    $ 117,936               
 

3/14/2011

    6,799        20,397            $ 21.80        3/13/2021        4,988 (12)    $ 17,508        2,493 (13)   $ 8,750  
 

3/03/2010

    11,776        11,776            $ 29.02        3/02/2020                     17,272 (14)   $ 60,625  
 

2/25/2009

    16,155        5,385            $ 26.15        2/24/2019                            
 

3/13/2008

    39,500                  $ 13.32        3/12/2018                            
 

2/25/2008

    5,000                  $ 15.32        2/24/2018                            

Jason T. Friesen

 

11/13/2012

          8,885            $ 2.62        11/12/2022        14,660 (9)    $ 51,457               
 

3/01/2012

          12,020            $ 8.63        2/28/2022        19,836 (9)    $ 69,624               
 

5/19/2011

                                  13,345 (11)    $ 46,841               
 

3/14/2011

    4,014        12,042            $ 21.80        3/13/2021        2,944 (9)    $ 10,333        1,472 (13)   $ 5,167  
 

3/03/2010

    5,002        5,002            $ 29.02        3/02/2020        1,834 (9)    $ 6,437        3,668 (14)   $ 12,875  
 

2/25/2009

    6,024        2,008            $ 26.15        2/24/2019                            
 

3/13/2008

    10,000                  $ 13.32        3/12/2018                            
 

11/08/2007

    3,000                  $ 33.33        11/07/2017                            

Daniel J. Hurdle

 

8/03/2012

          5,102            $ 3.08        8/02/2022        20,116 (9)    $ 70,607               

 

(1) Unless otherwise indicated, stock options become exercisable in four equal installments on each anniversary of the option grant date.

 

(2) The dollar value of these awards is calculated using the closing market price of $3.51 per share of our common stock on December 31, 2012, as reported on NASDAQ.

 

(3) In connection with Mr. Graham’s resignation from the Company, all of his unvested restricted stock, unvested restricted stock units and unexercisable stock options were forfeited.

 

(4) These options became exercisable on March 1, 2013.

 

(5) These restricted stock units were subject to performance vesting and were outstanding at December 31, 2012. In the first quarter of 2013, the Compensation Committee determined that the specified performance measures were achieved and vesting occurred on March 1, 2013.

 

(6) These options become exercisable if during any 90 calendar day period the closing stock price is equal to or greater than $30 for 30 trading days within the 90-day period. The measurement period commenced on March 1, 2013 and ends on March 1, 2015.

 

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(7) One-fourth of the stock options became exercisable on the option grant date, and one-fourth of the stock options become exercisable on each of the first three anniversaries of the option grant date.

 

(8) One-third of the stock options became exercisable on the option grant date, and one-third of the stock options become exercisable on each of the next two anniversaries of the option grant date.

 

(9) This award vests on the third anniversary of the grant date.

 

(10) One-fourth of these time-based restricted stock units vest on each of March 1, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

 

(11) One-half of these shares of time-based restricted stock vest on each of May 19, 2013 and 2014.

 

(12) These shares of time-based restricted stock vest on March 14, 2014.

 

(13) The specified performance measures have been satisfied with respect to these shares and they will vest on March 14, 2014.

 

(14) These shares of restricted stock were subject to performance of applicable performance criteria and were outstanding at December 31, 2012. In the first quarter of 2013, the Compensation Committee determined that the specified performance measures were not achieved and therefore these shares were forfeited on March 3, 2013.

 

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Option Exercises and Stock Vested for 2012

The following table includes information for restricted stock held by our named executive officers that vested during the year ended December 31, 2012. During the year ended December 31, 2012, no options were exercised by our named executive officers.

 

Name

   Stock Awards  
   Number of
Shares
Acquired on
Vesting
     Value
Realized on
Vesting(1)
 

Steven H. Lesnik

               

Colleen M. O’Sullivan

     3,122       $ 37,245   

Michael J. Graham

     12,146       $ 144,902   

Jeffrey D. Ayers

     8,686       $ 103,624   

Jason T. Friesen

     3,239       $ 38,641   

Daniel J. Hurdle

               

 

(1) The aggregate dollar value realized on vesting was calculated by multiplying the number of shares which vested by the closing price of the Company’s common stock as reported on NASDAQ on the vesting date.

Employment Arrangements of Named Executive Officers

Steven H. Lesnik

Mr. Lesnik served as President and Chief Executive Officer from October 31, 2011 through April 7, 2013. In addition, Mr. Lesnik has served as Chairman of the Company since 2008 and as a member of the Board since 2006. Mr. Lesnik will continue to serve as Chairman and as a member of the Board through the 2013 Annual Meeting of Stockholders. Prior to February 26, 2013, Mr. Lesnik did not have an employment agreement with the Company. During his service as President and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Lesnik did not receive any additional compensation as Chairman or as a member of the Board, and was eligible to participate in the benefit plans generally available to other executive officers of the Company, including receiving awards under the 2008 Plan.

On February 26, 2013, the Company entered into a letter agreement with Mr. Lesnik (the “Lesnik Letter Agreement”) in which Mr. Lesnik agreed to continue to serve as the Company’s Chief Executive Officer, an employee or consultant agent to the Company from the date of the Lesnik Letter Agreement until March 31, 2014 (the “Term”). The Term may be extended by mutual agreement by Mr. Lesnik and the Board of Directors of the Company and was subject to automatic extension by one day for each day Mr. Lesnik might have served as the Company’s Chief Executive Officer after September 30, 2013. The Lesnik Letter Agreement provides that Mr. Lesnik will continue to receive his current salary of $83,333 per month through the end of the Term, as long as Mr. Lesnik remains employed by the Company as its Chief Executive Officer or remains available to provide executive consulting agent services to the Company. The Lesnik Letter Agreement does not otherwise provide for any severance payments or benefits in connection with a termination of employment or service with the Company.

Pursuant to the terms of the Lesnik Letter Agreement, on March 4, 2013 the Compensation Committee granted Mr. Lesnik: (i) time-based options (the “2013 Lesnik Options”) to purchase 450,000 shares of Company common stock; and (ii) 299,401 performance-based cash-settled restricted stock units (the “2013 Lesnik RSUs”). The 2013 Lesnik Options have an exercise price of $2.72, the closing price of the Company’s common stock on the date of grant and become exercisable in twelve equal monthly installments as long as Mr. Lesnik remains employed by the Company as its Chief Executive Officer or remains available to provide executive consulting services to the Company. The 2013 Lesnik RSUs will cease to be restricted and shall become non-forfeitable on March 14, 2014, as long as Mr. Lesnik remains employed by the Company as its Chief Executive Officer or remains available to provide executive consulting services to the Company, subject to the achievement of certain performance criteria on or prior to such date.

 

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Michael J. Graham

In connection with Mr. Graham’s appointment as our Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer effective September 5, 2007, the Company and Mr. Graham entered into an employment letter agreement that set Mr. Graham’s initial annual base salary at $390,000, provided for a $50,000 signing bonus, established his target annual cash incentive percentage at 75% of his base salary earnings and guaranteed his 2007 cash incentive at 75% of his base salary, prorated from his start date. The agreement also provided for a grant of 6,000 shares of restricted stock that vested on the third anniversary of the grant date and an option to purchase 12,500 shares of common stock exercisable in four equal installments on the first four anniversaries of the grant date. These awards were made under the 1998 Plan. The letter agreement also provided that if Mr. Graham’s employment is terminated without cause (as defined in the 1998 Plan) or if he voluntarily resigns for good reason (as defined in the letter agreement), he is eligible to receive severance benefits under the Company’s Executive Severance Plan.

Mr. Graham resigned as the Company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer effective September 14, 2012. No amounts were paid to Mr. Graham in connection with his resignation from the Company. See “Potential Payments upon Termination or Change in Control—Termination of Employment—Michael J. Graham Resignation” below.

Daniel J. Hurdle

Effective June 26, 2012, Mr. Hurdle became Senior Vice President and Chief Career Schools Officer. His employment offer letter provides for an initial annual base salary of $330,000, a $107,600 signing bonus, a cash payment to offset foregone value of stock options granted to Mr. Hurdle by his former employer and a relocation package under the Company’s relocation policy, and established his target annual cash incentive percentage at 50% of his base salary earnings. The agreement also provided for a grant of 20,116 restricted stock units that vest on the third anniversary of the grant date and an option to purchase 5,102 shares of common stock exercisable in four equal installments on the first four anniversaries of the grant date. These awards were made under the 2008 Plan. Pursuant to his employment offer letter, in the event of an involuntary termination of employment, Mr. Hurdle is eligible for 52 weeks of pay equal to his salary at the time of termination as well as other benefits specified in the Company’s Executive Severance Plan.

 

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POTENTIAL PAYMENTS UPON TERMINATION OR CHANGE IN CONTROL

We have entered into certain agreements (such as the employment agreements discussed above under the caption “Employment Arrangements”) and maintain certain plans that require us to provide compensation to the named executive officers in the event of certain terminations of their employment or if the Company experiences a change in control. The amount of compensation payable to each named executive officer for such terminations is shown in the tables below.

Termination of Employment

Executive Severance Plan

The Company’s U.S.-based executive officers are eligible to participate in the Company’s Executive Severance Plan and may be eligible to receive benefits thereunder in the event such an executive officer’s employment is involuntarily terminated, except that as of February 26, 2013 Mr. Lesnik is no longer eligible to participate in this plan pursuant to the terms of the Lesnik Letter Agreement. The Employee Benefits Committee, as the plan administrator, or its authorized designee, is responsible for determining whether an eligible executive officer’s employment is terminated involuntarily by the Company and, if so, whether such eligible executive officer will receive benefits under this plan, in accordance with the terms thereof. Involuntary terminations do not include terminations for cause (as defined under this plan); terminations due to agreements between the Company and the employee under which the employee becomes a consultant or independent contractor; terminations due to death, disability, retirement (including voluntary retirement under any special early retirement incentive program) or any form of voluntary termination. Termination for cause means the employee is discharged by us for poor performance, nonperformance or misconduct. Misconduct includes, but is not limited to, insubordination, dishonesty, theft, violation of Company rules and willful destruction of Company property.

Severance benefits under this plan include base pay, certain benefits coverage and prorated cash incentive payments payable under the Company’s annual incentive program, as follows:

 

   

A lump sum payment of a minimum of 26 weeks and a maximum of 52 weeks of base pay, calculated based on the number of full years of continuous service completed (unless otherwise provided in an employee’s employment offer letter), as follows:

 

   

26 weeks of base pay on completing fewer than nine full years of continuous service.

 

   

Three weeks base pay per year on completing nine to 17 full years of continuous service.

 

   

52 weeks of base pay on completing 18 or more full years of continuous service.

 

   

For those executives who participate in our health, dental and vision plans and timely elect to continue that coverage under federal COBRA law, partially subsidized COBRA insurance premiums so that the executive pays the same cost that similarly situated active employees of the Company pay for such coverage for a period of time beginning immediately after the employment termination and lasting for the number of weeks that is equal to the number of weeks of base pay the executive receives as severance pay.

 

   

A lump sum payment of prorated cash incentive earned (if any) for the year of termination, calculated in accordance with the method for determining the amount of annual cash incentive payable to other similarly situated active employees and paid in accordance with our normal annual incentive program’s payment procedures.

 

   

Outplacement assistance from a Company-selected provider that is reimbursed or paid for by the Company.

Continuous service means the executive’s most recent unbroken period of employment with us, which may include service with a predecessor employer that we acquired, beginning on the executive’s most recent hire date

 

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and ending on the date of employment termination. Continuous service excludes any period of earned unused vacation or any period during which the executive was a consultant or independent contractor for us. Multiple periods of employment with CEC separated by a leave of absence of less than one year are considered one continuous period of employment.

To receive the severance benefits, the terminated executive must sign a release of claims against the Company and enter into a non-solicitation, non-competition and confidentiality agreement with the Company to the extent permitted by governing law and allowed under the ethical rules of any applicable professional licensing organizations. The Executive Severance Plan is intended to provide benefits that are exempt from the requirements of Code Section 409A, but provides that to the extent any benefit payable is determined to be subject to Section 409A, benefits will be paid in accordance with Section 409A.

Equity Plans

Our 2008 Plan is our current equity plan, although awards remain outstanding under our prior 1998 Plan. The 2008 Plan and 1998 Plan have differing provisions for treatment of equity awards if a participant, including a named executive officer, incurs a termination of employment.

2008 Plan.    Under our 2008 Plan, restricted stock and restricted stock unit awards immediately vest and become nonforfeitable in case of death or disability, but are forfeited in the event of other forms of employment termination. For stock option awards, if the termination is due to:

 

   

Death or disability, options become fully exercisable and remain exercisable from the date of termination due to death or disability until the first to occur of (a) the expiration date of the option and (b) one year after the date of termination. Any options not exercised within the allowed time period are automatically forfeited.

 

   

Retirement, options continue to vest for three years (but not longer than the option’s term) and any vested and exercisable options are exercisable from the date of retirement until the first to occur of (x) the expiration date of the option and (y) three years after the retirement date; any options that have not become exercisable are automatically forfeited. Any options not exercised within the allowed time period also are automatically forfeited. Retirement means termination after age 55 with at least five years of service.

 

   

Involuntary termination for reasons other than cause, options that are exercisable on the date of termination remain exercisable from that termination date until the first to occur of (a) the expiration date of the option and (b) 90 days from the termination date. Any unexercisable options on the date of termination are automatically forfeited and options not exercised within the allowed time period are automatically forfeited.

 

   

Voluntary termination of employment or service (for reasons other than retirement, death or disability), options that are exercisable on the date of termination remain exercisable from that termination date until the first to occur of (a) the expiration date of the option and (b) 30 days after the termination date. Any unexercisable options on the termination date are automatically forfeited. Any options not exercised within the allowed time period also are automatically forfeited.

 

   

Termination for cause, the participant immediately and automatically forfeits all options and all rights to purchase shares of our stock.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, stock options granted to Mr. Lesnik under the 2008 Plan on May 19, 2011 and 2010 and on April 30, 2009, which were granted to Mr. Lesnik in his capacity as a non-employee director, and on March 1, 2012 and March 4, 2013, which were granted to Mr. Lesnik in his capacity as President and Chief Executive Officer, provide that if Mr. Lesnik incurs a termination of service (as defined in the 2008 Plan) for any reason other than for cause, any stock option which is exercisable at the time of such termination shall

 

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remain exercisable, pursuant to and subject to the 2008 Plan, until the earlier of (a) the third anniversary of such termination of service, and (b) the expiration of the option term. In addition, Mr. Lesnik’s price-vesting stock options granted on March 1, 2012 will remain outstanding for the duration of the performance period to determine whether vesting will occur, and if vesting occurs these stock options will remain outstanding for three years from the date of vesting. If the termination for service is for cause, then all options held by Mr. Lesnik at the time of such termination of service will be immediately cancelled and forfeited.

In addition, certain special vesting provisions apply to time-based restricted stock awards granted on May 19, 2011. For these awards, vesting upon (i) a termination due to the death or disability of the grantee, and (ii) an involuntary termination of the grantee during the two-year period following a change in control, is prorated based on the date of such termination. For terminations prior to May 19, 2013, the number of shares that vest would equal 50% of the total shares granted multiplied by a fraction, the numerator of which is the number of days elapsing between May 19, 2011 and the termination date, and the denominator of which is 730 (rounded up to the nearest whole share). For terminations after May 19, 2013, the number of shares that vest (in addition to the shares that would have become vested on May 19, 2013) would equal the result of the following formula (rounded up to the nearest whole share): A x (B/1095) – (A – (.5 x A)); where “A” equals the number of shares granted on May 19, 2011 and “B” equals the number of days elapsing between May 19, 2011 and the termination date.

1998 Plan.    Under the 1998 Plan, for participants other than the named executive officers, Section 16 officers and directors holding options under this Plan, if the termination is:

 

   

Involuntary or the result of retirement, unexercisable stock options are immediately forfeited and exercisable stock options remain exercisable for 90 days following termination.

 

   

Due to disability, all outstanding stock options become immediately exercisable and remain exercisable for 90 days.

 

   

Due to death, all stock options become immediately exercisable and remain exercisable until (a) for pre-2001 options, 90 days following the appointment of a representative for the participant’s estate, and (b) for 2001 and later options, until one year from the date of death.

 

   

For voluntary termination (other than due to retirement), all stock options immediately forfeit; however, the Compensation Committee has generally provided in stock option award agreements that the exercisable stock options remain exercisable for 30 days following termination.

 

   

For cause, unexercised stock options are immediately forfeited. Cause means (a) any act or omission which we believe is of a criminal nature and the result of which we believe is detrimental to the interests of us or our affiliates, (b) the material breach of a fiduciary duty owing to us, including, without limitation, fraud or embezzlement, or (c) conduct, or the omission of conduct, on the part of the participant that constitutes a material breach of any statutory or common-law duty of loyalty to us or our affiliates. However, if a participant is subject to an employment agreement, cause has the meaning set forth in that participant’s employment agreement.

In each case described above, stock options never remain exercisable beyond their original term. There are no outstanding restricted stock awards under the 1998 Plan.

On February 20, 2009, we entered into Option and Restricted Stock Amendment Agreements with the Company’s Section 16 reporting officers at that time, including our named executive officers (except Mr. Hurdle, who had not joined the Company at that time, and Mr. Lesnik, who was a non-employee director at such time), amending all then-outstanding Company options and restricted stock awards held by them under the 1998 Plan. These agreements amended these outstanding awards to (i) increase the stock ownership threshold at which a change in control is deemed to occur from 20% to 35% and (ii) provide that, upon the termination of employment (as defined in the 1998 Plan) of any Section 16 officer by the Company without cause (as defined in the 1998 Plan), the options held by the officer under the 1998 Plan will become fully exercisable and the shares of restricted stock held by the officer under the 1998 Plan will become fully vested.

 

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On February 20, 2009, Mr. Lesnik, in his capacity as a non-employee director, entered into an Option Extension and Amendment Agreement with the Company regarding then-outstanding option grants held by him under the 1998 Plan and the 1998 Non-Employee Directors’ Stock Option Plan. This agreement amended Mr. Lesnik’s then-outstanding option grants to (a) increase the stock ownership threshold upon which a change in control of the Company is deemed to occur from 20% to 35% and (b) extend the post-termination exercise period of these options which are vested at the time of such termination of service (as defined in the 2008 Plan) to the earlier of (i) three years following termination of service and (ii) the original expiration date of the option, except in the case of termination of service at a time when cause (as defined in the 2008 Plan) exists. If the termination for service is for cause, then the terms of the plans under which such options were granted and the option award agreements will apply to such termination without giving effect to such amendments.

Michael J. Graham’s Resignation

Mr. Graham resigned as the Company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer effective September 14, 2012. Pursuant to the terms of our 2008 Plan and 1998 Plan and the awards granted to Mr. Graham thereunder, all unvested restricted stock, unvested restricted stock units and unexercisable stock option were forfeited upon his resignation, and no amounts were due to him pursuant to our annual cash incentive program. With respect to exercisable options, Mr. Graham had 30 days from his resignation to exercise them, which he did not. No other amounts were paid or payable to Mr. Graham in connection with his resignation from the Company.

Change in Control

Under the 1998 and 2008 Plans, a change in control is deemed to have occurred (except with regard to our non-employee directors and Section 16 officers as discussed above under “Termination of Employment—Equity Plans”) if any of the following events occur:

 

   

Any corporation, person or other entity (other than us, our majority-owned subsidiary or any of its subsidiaries, or an employee benefit plan (or related trust) sponsored or maintained by us), including persons or entities acting as a group, becomes the beneficial owner of stock representing more than 20% (35% in the 2008 Plan and for our Section 16 officers and directors) of our common stock.

 

   

Our stockholders approve our merger or consolidation with or into another corporation other than a majority-owned subsidiary, or an agreement to sell or otherwise dispose of all or substantially all of our assets, and the members of the Board of Directors prior to that approval do not represent a majority of the directors of the surviving, resulting or acquiring entity or the parent of that entity.

 

   

Our stockholders approve a plan of liquidation.

 

   

Within any period of 24 consecutive months, the members of the Board of Directors immediately prior to the 24-month period, together with any persons first elected as directors (other than as a result of any settlement of a proxy or consent solicitation contest or any action taken to avoid a contest) during the 24-month period by or on the recommendation of the Board immediately prior to that 24-month period and who constituted a majority of the Board at the time of election, cease to constitute a majority of the Board.

The 2008 Plan is a “double-trigger” plan that provides that upon both (1) a change in control and (2) an involuntary termination of the award holder’s employment or service by us or our successor other than for cause (as defined in the 2008 Plan) during the two-year period following the change in control, that award holder’s stock options shall become exercisable and shares of restricted stock and restricted stock units shall become vested. All performance goals will be deemed to have been met.

Under the 1998 Plan, any stock options outstanding as of the date of a change in control and not then exercisable become fully exercisable, and any restrictions applicable to restricted stock lapse and the shares become fully vested. All performance goals will be deemed to have been met.

 

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Potential Payments

The following tables describe the benefits to which the named executive officers (other than Mr. Graham, who is addressed above) would have been entitled under the plans described above and any relevant provisions of their employment agreements (1) if the named executive officer had terminated employment pursuant to (a) a voluntary termination or retirement, (b) an involuntary termination other than for cause, (c) the named executive officer’s death or disability, or (d) a termination for cause (as defined in the 2008 Plan), in any such case on December 31, 2012 or (2) upon a change in control of the Company and a concurrent involuntary termination of the named executive officer’s employment on December 31, 2012.

Steven H. Lesnik

 

Executive Benefits and

Payments Upon Termination(1)

  Voluntary
Termination
    Normal
Retirement
    Involuntary
Not for
Cause
Termination
    Death or
Disability
    For Cause
Termination
    Change in
Control(1)
 

Compensation:

           

Base Salary Lump Sum (2)

  $  —      $  —      $ 500,000      $      $  —      $ 500,000   

Accrued & Pro Rata Incentive (2)

  $      $      $      $      $      $   

Performance-Based Units (3)

  $      $      $      $ 402,987      $      $ 402,987   

Time-Based Shares (3)

  $      $      $      $      $      $   

Stock Options (4)

  $      $      $      $      $      $   

Benefits and Perquisites:

           

Life Insurance Proceeds (5)

  $      $      $      $ 650,000      $      $   

COBRA Benefits (6)

  $      $      $ 264      $      $      $ 264   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total:

  $      $      $ 500,264      $ 1,052,987      $      $ 903,251   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Colleen M. O’Sullivan

 

Executive Benefits and

Payments Upon Termination(1)

  Voluntary
Termination
    Normal
Retirement
    Involuntary
Not for
Cause
Termination
    Death or
Disability
    For Cause
Termination
    Change in
Control(1)
 

Compensation:

           

Base Salary Lump Sum (2)

  $      $      $ 177,500      $      $  —      $ 177,500   

Accrued & Pro Rata Incentive (2)

  $ 41,247      $ 41,247      $ 41,247      $ 41,247      $      $ 41,247   

Performance-Based Shares (3)

  $      $      $      $ 16,199      $      $ 16,199   

Time-Based Shares or Units (3)

  $      $      $      $ 150,290      $      $ 150,290   

Stock Options (4)

  $      $     $      $      $      $   

Benefits and Perquisites:

           

COBRA Benefits (6)

  $      $      $ 4,968      $      $      $ 4,968   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total:

  $ 41,247      $ 41,247      $ 223,715      $ 207,736      $      $ 390,204   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

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Jeffrey D. Ayers

 

Executive Benefits and
Payments Upon Termination(1)

  Voluntary
Termination
    Normal
Retirement
    Involuntary
Not for Cause
Termination
    Death or
Disability
    For Cause
Termination
    Change in
Control(1)
 

Compensation:

           

Base Salary Lump Sum (2)

  $      $      $ 190,000      $      $      $ 190,000   

Accrued & Pro Rata Incentive (2)

  $ 58,804      $ 58,804      $ 58,804      $ 58,804      $      $ 58,804   

Performance-Based Shares (3)

  $      $      $      $ 69,375      $      $ 69,375   

Time-Based Shares or Units (3)

  $      $      $      $ 135,444      $      $ 135,444   

Stock Options (4)

  $      $      $      $      $      $   

Benefits and Perquisites:

           

COBRA Benefits (6)

  $      $      $ 5,418      $      $      $ 5,418   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total:

  $ 58,804      $ 58,804      $ 254,222      $ 263,623      $  —      $ 459,041   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Jason T. Friesen

 

Executive Benefits and

Payments Upon Termination(1)

  Voluntary
Termination
    Normal
Retirement
    Involuntary
Not for Cause
Termination
    Death or
Disability
    For Cause
Termination
    Change in
Control(1)
 

Compensation:

           

Base Salary Lump Sum (2)

  $      $      $ 177,500      $      $  —      $ 177,500   

Accrued & Pro Rata Incentive (2)

  $ 58,449      $ 58,449      $ 58,449      $ 58,449      $      $ 58,449   

Performance-Based Shares (3)

  $      $      $      $ 18,040      $      $ 18,040   

Time-Based Shares or Units(3)

  $      $      $      $ 156,845      $      $ 156,845   

Stock Options (4)

  $      $ 5,931      $      $ 7,908      $      $ 7,908   

Benefits and Perquisites:

           

COBRA Benefits (6)

  $      $      $ 5,418      $      $      $ 5,418   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total:

  $ 58,449      $ 64,380      $ 241,367      $ 241,242      $      $ 424,160   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Daniel J. Hurdle

 

Executive Benefits and

Payments Upon Termination(1)

   Voluntary
Termination
     Normal
Retirement
     Involuntary
Not for Cause
Termination
     Death or
Disability
     For Cause
Termination
     Change in
Control(1)
 

Compensation:

                 

Base Salary Lump Sum (2)

   $       $       $ 330,000       $       $  —       $ 330,000   

Accrued & Pro Rata Incentive (2)

   $ 20,100       $ 20,100       $ 20,100       $ 20,100       $       $ 20,100   

Performance-Based Shares (3)

   $       $       $       $       $       $   

Time-Based Shares (3)

   $       $       $       $ 70,607       $       $ 70,607   

Stock Options (4)

   $       $ 1,645       $       $ 2,194       $       $ 2,194   

Benefits and Perquisites:

                 

COBRA Benefits (6)

   $       $       $ 2,516       $       $       $ 2,516   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total:

   $ 20,100       $ 21,745       $ 352,616       $ 92,901       $       $ 425,417   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

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(1) The Company’s Executive Severance Plan governs the severance arrangements applicable to the named executive officers. The Company’s Executive Severance Plan does not contain provisions addressing change in control. For purposes of determining salary, annual cash incentive amounts and lump sums (if any) payable to named executive officers assuming a concurrent change in control and job termination effective December 31, 2012, the change in control and job termination are deemed to be involuntary not for cause termination.

 

(2) Severance arrangements for the named executive officers are governed by the Company’s Executive Severance Plan, which is described above in this “Potential Payments upon Termination or Change in Control” section, and, for Mr. Hurdle, his employment offer letter, which provides for 52 weeks of base pay in the event of an involuntary termination of employment. The Company’s cash incentive program is a calendar year program. Assuming a December 31, 2012 termination date, the named executive officers would receive the cash incentive accrued and payable for calendar year 2012 and would not receive any additional pro rata cash incentive payment.

 

(3) For purposes of the table above, compensation for the vesting of time-based and performance-based restricted stock equals the $3.51 closing price per share of our common stock as reported on NASDAQ on December 31, 2012, multiplied by the number of vesting shares. All performance conditions are assumed to have been attained at maximum performance.

 

(4) Stock option compensation for the events in the tables above equals the difference between the exercise price and the $3.51 closing price of our common stock as reported on NASDAQ on December 31, 2012, multiplied by the number of shares becoming exercisable in connection with the termination event.

 

(5) Company-paid life insurance policy only.

 

(6) The Executive Severance Plan provides that the Company will pay a portion of medical, dental and vision premiums for terminated executives for the period of time after termination that is equal to the number of weeks of pay for which the executive is eligible, if an eligible executive is a participant in the Company’s medical, dental or vision insurance plans at the time of termination and after termination timely elects to continue such insurance coverage under federal COBRA law. The executive pays a premium amount that a similarly situated active employee of the Company pays for such coverage.

 

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PROPOSAL 2

ADVISORY VOTE TO APPROVE EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act enacted in July 2010 (the “Dodd-Frank Act”), the Company’s stockholders are entitled to vote at the Annual Meeting to approve the compensation of the Company’s named executive officers, as disclosed in the proxy statement pursuant to Item 402 of Regulation S-K under the Exchange Act. The Dodd-Frank Act provides that this vote is advisory only and it is not binding on the Company or the Board of Directors. This vote is not intended to address any specific item of compensation, but rather our overall compensation policies and procedures relating to our named executive officers. Accordingly, your vote will not directly affect or otherwise limit any existing compensation or award arrangement of any of our named executive officers. Because your vote is advisory, it will not be binding upon the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors and Compensation Committee will, however, take into account the outcome of the Say-on-Pay vote when considering future compensation arrangements. The Company is providing this vote as required pursuant to Section 14A of the Exchange Act. The Board of Directors determined that the Company will hold a nonbinding stockholder advisory vote to approve executive compensation on an annual basis until the next required vote on the frequency of such nonbinding stockholder advisory vote or until the Board of Directors otherwise determines that a different frequency for such vote is in the best interests of the Company’s stockholders.

Accordingly, stockholders are being asked to vote at the Annual Meeting to approve our executive compensation policies and procedures for the named executive officers, as described in the Compensation Discussion and Analysis as included in this Proxy Statement. This proposal, commonly known as a “Say-on-Pay” proposal, gives you as a stockholder the opportunity to endorse or not endorse our fiscal year 2012 executive compensation programs and policies for the named executive officers through the following resolution: