Equifax dumps CEO in wake of damaging data breach

NEW YORK (AP) — Credit reporting agency Equifax is ousting CEO Richard Smith in an effort to clean up the mess left by a damaging data breach that exposed highly sensitive information about 143 million Americans.

The shake-up announced Tuesday comes after Equifax disclosed that hackers exploited a software flaw that the company didn’t fix to heist Social Security numbers, birthdates and other personal data that provide the keys to identify theft.

Smith will also step down from the chairman post. He had been Equifax’s CEO since 2005. Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. was named interim CEO, while board member Mark Feidler was appointed non-executive chairman.

Equifax said that it will conduct a search for a permanent CEO, considering both internal and external candidates.

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While the company said in a statement that Smith was retiring, Equifax said in a regulatory filing that it has not entered into any other arrangement or agreement with Smith in connection with his retirement. He will however, serve as an unpaid adviser to help with the transition process.

The company said in the filing Smith will not receive his annual bonus, and his other potential retirement-related benefits won’t be awarded until Equifax concludes an independent review of the data breach.

“The cybersecurity incident has affected millions of consumers, and I have been completely dedicated to making this right,” Smith said in a 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.”

Although many analysts had applauded Equifax’s performance under Smith, he and the rest of his management team had come under fire for lax security and its response to the breach.

Smith’s departure follows the abrupt retirement of Equifax’s chief security officer and chief information officer.

Equifax had tried to appease incensed lawmakers, consumers and investors on September 15 with the unceremonious retirement of its chief security officer and chief information officer who were responsible for managing and protecting the company’s technology.

But that wasn’t enough, with lawmakers drawing up bills that would impose sweeping reforms on Equifax and its two main rivals, Experian and TransUnion, and Equifax’s stock in a downfall that wiped out one third-of the Atlanta company’s value — a $5.5…

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