The chief executive of embattled credit agency Equifax announced his retirement on Tuesday, in the wake of a massive data breach that exposed the personal information of 143 million people.
Richard Smith, 57, retired with immediate effect, becoming the third senior executive to leave since the breach was reported earlier this month. Equifax’s chief information officer and chief security officer have also left the company.
In a statement issued by the company, Smith said: “The cybersecurity incident has affected millions of consumers, and I have been completely dedicated to making this right. 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 has been chairman and chief executive officer of the company since 2005. His total compensation 2016 was $14.9m in 2016, according to Bloomberg.
Equifax is now the subject of multiple state and federal inquiries after the Atlanta-based company said “criminals” had exploited a US website application to access files between mid-May and July of this year.
Consumers’ names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers were exposed. The breach also involved the credit card numbers of about 209,000 US consumers – the largest credit card hack in US history.
The company’s response to the breach has also come in for criticism for its confusing response to the hack. A class action lawsuit has been filed against the company accusing it of negligence.
The Senate committee on banking, housing and urban affairs will hold a hearing on the scandal on 4 October and Smith is still expected to testify. The company has been widely criticized for waiting a month before informing clients that its systems had been compromised.
Several top executives sold stock totaling $1.7m days before the hack was made public, and the company has lost about a quarter of its value since making the announcement.
In a statement, Mark Feidler, a board member who has been appointed chairman, said: “The board remains deeply concerned about and totally focused on the cybersecurity incident.
“We are working intensely to support consumers and make the necessary changes to minimize the risk that something like this happens again. Speaking for everyone on the board, I sincerely apologize.
“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.”