Business Take: Did Target's CEO Deserve to Be Fired for His Handling of Data Breach?

On a technical level Target  (NYSE: TGT  ) CEO Gregg Steinhafel resigned. In reality he was either pushed out or chose to fall on his sword because somebody had to take the blame for the company's massive security breach that put 100 million credit card numbers at risk. 

In this episode of Business Take, the show that gives you the Foolish perspective on the most important business stories of the week, host Jason Hellmann and Fool contributor Daniel Kline talk about how Steinhafel took the blame for something that was not really his fault. 

"I would be much more likely if say tomorrow Sears (NASDAQ: SHLD) was hacked to hold the CEO responsible," Kline said. "I'd say 'wait a minute, you saw what happened to Target, why are you not vigilant.'"

Hellmann and Kline discussed how the end came for Steinhafel largely because he did not take clear, decisive action to reassure the public that Target was actually doing something to keep customer data safe going forward. The company, of course, made statements and attempted to reassure customers that it was taking action, but Steinhafel himself was not visibly in front of the crisis. That may not be fair to the ousted CEO because he was not exactly a showman compared to many company top bosses, but he was Target's leader and he had not taken a leadership roll -- at least visibly -- on this topic.

"There was no real clear explanation of why it happened and no concrete plan laying out this is the X, Y, and Z of what we're doing and here's why it won't happen again," Hellmann said.

The Business Take team closed by talking about rumors that Target will break its long-standing policy of hiring from within. 

Do you think Steinhafel deserved to be fired? Who do you think the company should target as its next CEO? Should it look to the online world or hire someone with a strong cyber-security background? Tell us how you feel and share your CEO suggestions in the comments below.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2014, at 5:26 PM, Seanickson wrote:

    Thats funny. You think he was fired for the data breach?

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2014, at 5:32 PM, My535 wrote:

    The CIO was fired first and the CIO's qualifications for the position didn't appear to be sufficient for the job, accordingly, the CEO should accept the responsibility for filling that important position inappropriately

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2014, at 5:33 PM, Jenso wrote:

    Michael Francis. He's young, smart and hip, and knows how to accept advice. Though he's probably quite snug at DreamWorks Animation right now.

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Daniel B. Kline

Daniel B. Kline is an accomplished writer and editor who has worked for the Microsoft's Finance app and The Boston Globe, where he wrote for the paper and ran the business desk. His latest book "Worst Ideas Ever" (Skyhorse) can be purchased at bookstores everywhere.

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