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.
Two other top Equifax executives – the chief information officer and the chief security officer – stepped down Sept. 14.
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 found lackluster. A website Equifax created to provide information on the breach was initially plagued by problems, and the company struggled to keep up with a deluge of questions from confused and alarmed consumers.
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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 their stock sales.)
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, 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.
Federal authorities, led by the FBI, have opened a criminal investigation into the cyberattack on Equifax.
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. Smith had agreed to testify next month before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
A North Carolina couple has also filed a lawsuit in Charlotte against credit-reporting company Equifax over the firm’s disclosure this month of a hack that potentially exposed highly personal data of millions of Americans.