Target board members survive shareholder vote

Panel came scrutiny after data breach, Canada expansion

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DALLAS — Target Corp. shareholders re-elected the company’s entire board of directors, the company announced at its annual meeting Wednesday afternoon, a move that preserves the Minneapolis retailer’s ongoing search for a new chief executive.

The company’s board and executives came under intense scrutiny over how they led the company in the past year through an attention-getting data breach, a problem-ridden expansion into Canada, and overall lackluster sales.

Two advisers to institutional shareholders had recommended the ouster of some members of the 10-member board. Institutional Shareholder Services urged investors to dump seven board members for failing to protect the company from the data breach.

Shareholders left the board in place, though the precise result of their vote wasn’t immediately available.

The board repeatedly reached 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 also approved the company’s executive compensation plan, though the vote total wasn’t immediately available.

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 on 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.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Roxanne Austin, a longtime board member who became interim chairwoman after Steinhafel’s departure, told the crowd of about 100 people that the board has “total confidence” in Mulligan and the management team. “Target is a great company. Our best days are truly ahead,” Austin said.

During her remarks, she outlined some of the steps the company has taken since the data breach, including hiring a new chief information officer and accelerating the company’s plan to add chip-and-pin technology to its REDCards.

Outside the meeting, about 15 women demonstrated to press Target to ban customers from bringing guns into its stores. The women belonged to a group called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which launched its campaign last week using pictures of gun-rights activists in Texas carrying rifles and assault weapons into stores.

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.