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2017-09-26 10:43:02
Equifax C.E.O. Richard Smith Is Out After Huge Data Breach

The chairman and chief executive of Equifax, Richard F. Smith, retired on Tuesday in the aftermath of a major data breach that exposed the personal information of as many as 143 million people, the credit reporting agency said.

Equifax said Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., most recently the president of its Asia-Pacific region, had been appointed interim chief executive. The company said it planned to conduct a search for a new chief executive and would consider candidates from inside and outside the company.

“Speaking for everyone on the board, I sincerely apologize,” Mark Feidler, the Equifax board’s new chairman, said in a statement. “We have formed a special committee of the board to focus on the issues arising from the incident and to ensure that all appropriate actions are taken.”

Equifax, based in Atlanta, said this month that hackers had exploited an unpatched flaw in its website software to extract names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and other information about millions of people.

The company faced a blistering outcry from lawmakers and the public for failing to protect the sensitive data and for a response that many considered lackluster. A website that Equifax created to provide information about the breach was initially plagued by problems, and the company struggled to keep up with a deluge of questions from confused and alarmed consumers.

Three Equifax executives, including its chief financial officer, John W. Gamble Jr., sold $1.8 million in company shares in the days after the breach was discovered, but before it was publicly disclosed. (Equifax has said the executives were unaware of the breach at the time of the stock sales.)

Two other top Equifax executives — the chief information officer and the chief security officer — stepped down on Sept. 14.

Mr. Smith, 57, had been the chairman and chief executive of Equifax Inc. since 2005. He joined the company after a 22-year career at General Electric that included top executive positions in the conglomerate’s insurance, leasing and asset-management divisions.

Before the data breach at Equifax, Mr. Smith was widely admired on Wall Street for developing new products and increasing sales. Equifax had revenue of $3.1 billion last year, up from $1.4 billion the year he took over.

Mr. Smith will not receive a bonus in 2017 and will serve as an unpaid consultant to the company for up to 90 days, according to a financial filing. The company did not immediately answer questions about whether or under what circumstances he might have to repay any compensation he has already received.

Federal authorities, led by the F.B.I., have opened a criminal investigation into the cyberattack on company.

More than 30 state attorneys general have begun investigations into the breach, and federal lawmakers from both parties have requested information from Equifax and called for hearings on what went wrong. The Massachusetts attorney general filed a lawsuit against Equifax on Sept. 19 seeking civil damages and other payments. Mr. Smith had agreed to testify next month before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.