News Column

Target's ousted CEO gets a 37% pay cut

May 19, 2014

By Gary Strauss, @gbstrauss, USA TODAY

Bowing to shareholder complaints that Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel's pay was too high, Target's board of directors slashed his 2013 compensation by 37% and said the since-fired executive will have to pay back more than $5.4million in retirement benefits.

Steinhafel, a 35-year Target veteran, was ousted May 5 following a computer hacking scandal that affected millions of customers, plunging corporate earnings and an ill-fated store expansion into Canada. In his last full year as CEO, Steinhafel's compensation sank to $12.9million from $20.6million in 2012, Target said Monday in its annual proxy.

In an era of increasingly large CEO pay packages, Target directors appear to have applied the company's "expect more, pay less" consumer brand campaign to executive compensation. The board said it had "exercised negative discretion" last year, providing no short-term incentive awards to senior managers. While Steinhafel took the biggest hit, other execs, including interim CEO John Mulligan, saw compensation drop 10% to 16%.

Target's proxy termed Steinhafel's exit as an "involuntary termination." But he remains in an advisory role until August and remains bonus-eligible, based on Target's 2014 financial performance. And while he's losing about $1.5million from his pension, Steinhafel's golden parachute is worth more than $54million, including $43million in deferred compensation, $7.2million in severance and $4million in stock. Steinhafel also gained nearly $14million from stock options and vested shares last year, Target said.

The company did not disclose which shareholders had pressured the board on executive pay, but it said it had met with two proxy advisory firms and those representing 40% of outstanding shares.

Target's board will also make it harder for executives to receive generous pay packages. It's ending stock option grants and replacing restricted stock grants with equity awards based on shareholder return.

Two other shareholder proposals are heading to a vote at Target's annual meeting on June11.

Richard Will wants Target to eliminate company paid perks, including car allowances, personal use of company aircraft, financial management expenses, executive physicals, parking and spousal travel. "Their total compensation seems to be sufficient to enable these executives to be able to pay easily for these perquisites," Will says.

Target, which wants Will's proposal rejected, says eliminating executive perks would "put the company at a competitive disadvantage by eliminating a common pay element."

Another shareholder, longtime activist John Chevedden, wants Target to split the roles of CEO and chairman, saying companies that have separate board chairs have improved corporate governance.

Andy King for USA TODAY

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Source: USA Today

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