In a letter made available on Tuesday to Reuters, the House
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform requested that Target
turn over all documents or communications generated between November
1 and December 13, in which Target employees or "agents" discuss
"any suspicion" that a data breach had occurred.
The committee set a deadline of March 10 for Target to turn over the
materials. If the company does not comply, the committee's majority
Republicans have the power to issue a subpoena forcing the company's
The news came a day before the company is expected to report
fourth-quarter earnings and its leaders face Wall Street analysts
for the first time since the breach.
Several analysts expect Target to slash its share buybacks as it
copes with costs tied to the breach, which some estimate will cost
the company $500 million to $1.1 billion.
The 19-day breach of Target's computer networks over the holiday
shopping period resulted in the theft of an estimated 40 million
credit and debit card records and 70 million other records with
customer information, such as addresses and telephone numbers.
In the letter dated Monday, the House committee also requested any
documents generated between November 1 and December 19 referring to
discussions about notifying others about the data breach, and any
documents generated since December 12 in which any federal agency
advised the company to avoid providing information to Congress.
Congressional sources said that this is the first time the majority
on the Republican-led committee had sent such a request to Target.
The sources said the letter was prompted, at least in part, after
committee officials felt dissatisfied with responses given by Isaac
Reyes, an official with Target's government relations department,
during a January 30 conference call about the data breach.
The letter was signed by Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa,
a California Republican who has garnered headlines for his fierce
criticism of the Obama administration's performance on a wide range
The committee has wide jurisdiction to investigate government and
private business activity.
In its letter, the panel hints that the retailer may not have been
entirely forthcoming in its statements to the public and Congress
about when it learned of the data breach.
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Investigators believe that the hackers managed to break into
Target's payment network by first breaching a "data connection"
between the U.S. retailer and a heating and ventilating systems
contractor based near Pittsburgh.
The committee's letter noted that in testimony before a Senate
Judiciary Committee on February 4, John Mulligan, Target's chief
financial officer, testified that the company had no knowledge that
malware related to the data breach had been installed in its systems
before receiving a notification from the U.S. Justice Department on
The House oversight committee said that statement did not "clarify"
when Target learned that it could have been the victim of a breach,
since cybersecurity blog KrebsonSecurity reported that Target may
have been warned earlier about a problem.
In January, minority Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce
committee also sent a letter to Target requesting documents.
Congressional aides have said that Target responded to an earlier
request for data issued by Democrats on the House Energy and
Commerce Committee but that response, which has not been made
public, did not provide new insight.
Asked why the Republican majority leaders on that committee did not
push for the documents, Representative Lee Terry of Nebraska on
February 5 said Target had been forthcoming during conversations
with his staff and such pressure was unwarranted "until they don't
show that they are willing to give us data."
A Target spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
Target shares, which have fallen about 15 percent since the data
breaches were made public in December, were up 0.6 percent in
afternoon trading at $56.51.
(Additional reporting by Alina Selyukh
and Dhanya Skariachan; editing by Ros Krasny, Bill Trott and Amanda
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