Equifax chairman and chief executive Richard Smith has paid the ultimate price for the company’s bungled handling of the major data breach which emerged earlier this month, after the firm revealed he was stepping down “with immediate effect”.
Smith had been CEO for 12 years. It has been reported that the 57-year-old is “retiring”. The boss of Equifax’s Asia Pacific division, Paulino do Rego Barros, will take over as interim CEO, while Mark Feidler will serve as non-executive chairman.
Smith’s exit follows the departure of both chief information officer Susan Mauldin, who has also “retired”, and chief security officer David Webb, who has left, in the wake of the incident.
“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 said.
The company’s handling of the hack attack has been fiercely criticised, espcially as one of the services it offers is data security. The data of 143 million Americans, 500,000 Britons and 100,000 Canadians has been compromised.
Since the breach was first revealed on September 8, there has been a catalogue of disastrous media coverage for the business, including the fact that it discovered the hack on July 29, but waited nearly six weeks to warn customers; before it went public on the attack, three Equifax senior executives sold shares in the company worth almost $1.8m; and that the hackers used a vulnerability which was well known in cybersecurity circles.
Equifax said it would seek a new permanent chief executive, while Smith has agreed to stay on as an unpaid adviser during the transition.
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