News Column

Target faces scrutiny, critics at annual meeting today

June 11, 2014

By Kavita Kumar, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

June 11--DALLAS, Tex. -- The final countdown is on until Target's shareholders meeting in Dallas this afternoon.

Target board members and executives will face scrutiny over how they've led the company in the last year through the data breach, a problem-ridden expansion into Canada, and overall lackluster sales.

Perhaps the biggest cloud looming over the meeting are recommendations of two proxy advisers to oust some members of the 10-member board. Institutional Shareholder Services has urged investors to dump seven board members for failing to protect the company from the data breach.

The board in turn hustled to reach out to shareholders in the days leading up to today's meeting, defending their track record and laying out the steps they've taken to help beef up data security.

In addition to re-electing board members, shareholders will consider a proposal to make the board more independent by permanently splitting the roles of chairman and CEO, a move that the board opposes. Shareholders will also get to weigh in on the company's executive compensation plan.

The last couple of months have been full of upheaval at Target as the company tries to get things going in the right direction. Last month, the company ousted its CEO, Gregg Steinhafel, and named John Mulligan, the chief financial officer, as interim CEO.

Amid continuing problems with its year-old Canadian division, it fired the president of Target Canada and named a replacement. It has also begun a search for a nonexecutive chair to advise the retailer how to better adapt to the Canadian landscape.

And in recent weeks, Mulligan has been more open in acknowledging the company hasn't been quick enough to roll out new initiatives and has sometimes gotten bogged down in bureaucracy.

To that end, the company has named a new digital advisory council to help it innovate faster. And in a memo sent to employees earlier this week, Mulligan said that the entire leadership team would be moving to the 26th floor of headquarters to "remove roadblocks" in an effort to hasten decisionmaking.

A sideshow to the main event is expected to take place outside the venue where a couple of dozen mothers with strollers are planning to hold a "stroller jam" as a gun-control group continues to pressure the retailer to ban guns from being openly carried in its stores.

The group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, launched a campaign last week to ask Target to change its policy, using pictures of gun-rights activists in Texas carrying rifles and assault weapons into stores as fodder for its case.

The group says it has collected more than 200,000 signatures to date on its online petition and has begun delivering it this week to Target stores around the country.

Target has noted that it doesn't sell guns or ammunition in its stores, but says it won't prohibit them and will instead follow state and federal laws on the issue.

The doors to Target's annual meeting, which is being held at Union Station downtown, open at 12:30 p.m., and the meeting is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m.

Kavita Kumar -- 612-673-4113


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Source: Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

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