The chief executive of Equifax, the troubled credit reporting agency that suffered a massive data breach that affected as many as 143 million people, will retire, effective Tuesday, according to a statement by the company.
The departure of Richard Smith comes as Equifax has drawn the anger of countless consumers and dozens of federal lawmakers over its handling of the breach. Equifax announced earlier this month that hackers gained unauthorized access to sensitive personal data – Social Security numbers, birth dates and home addresses – for nearly half of the country. The company also faces multiple federal investigations over its handling of the hack and reports that executives sold an unusual amount stock before the breach was publicly disclosed.
Equifax’s board of directors appointed board member Mark Feidler to serve as Equifax’s nonexecutive chairman. Paulino do Rego Barros, who served as the president of the company’s Asia Pacific division, will become the interim chief executive.
“The cybersecurity incident has affected millions of consumers, and I have been completely dedicated to making this right,” Smith said in the statement. “At this critical juncture, I believe it is in the best interests of the company to have new leadership to move the company forward.”
Smith 57, had been the chairman and chief executive officer since 2005, after spending 22 years at General Electric. During his time at Equifax, the company’s stock price had soared 200 percent. And its market value swelled from $3 billion to $20 billion. Smith also expanded the company’s business into 24 countries.
Including salary and stock, Smith was paid about $15 million in 2016, a nearly 16 percent raise from 2015. According to a new filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Smith will not receive a bonus this year. Additional benefits owed to Smith will be deferred until the board of directors conducts an independent review of the data breach.
The board said that Smith will act as an unpaid adviser as the company conducts a search for a permanent chief executive.
Smith isn’t the first high-ranking executive at Equifax to depart since the breach. Earlier this month, the two officials responsible for Equifax’s security and information technology also abruptly retired.
The company on Tuesday said that the board has created a special committee to examine the breach. Next week, Smith was slated to testify in front of two congressional committees.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Hamza Shaban