Finance | September 26, 2017 11:24 am

After Massive Breach, Equifax Chief Richard Smith Steps Down

He is the third senior executive since the breach was reported.

Equifax Inc., offices in Atlanta
FILE - This July 21, 2012, file photo shows Equifax Inc., offices in Atlanta. On Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, Equifax said it has made changes to address customer complaints since it disclosed a week earlier that it exposed vital data on about 143 million Americans. Equifax has come under fire from members of Congress, state attorneys general, and people who are getting conflicting answers about whether their information was stolen. Equifax is trying again to clarify language about people’s right to sue, and said Monday it has made changes to address customer complaints. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

The chief executive of Equifax, Richard Smith, announced his retirement in the wake of a massive data breach. Smith, 57, becomes the third senior executive to leave since the breach — which exposed about 143 million people’s personal information — was reported. His retirement will start immediately, reports The Guardian

In a statement, Smith said that the breach affected millions, and he has been “completely dedicated to making this right.” He believes it is in the best interests of the company “to have new leadership to move the company forward,” reports The Guardian. 

Smith, who has been chairman and chief executive officer of the company since 2005, made $14.9 million in 2016, according to Bloomberg.

There are now several state and federal inquiries into Equifax. The Atlanta-based company said that “criminals” exploited a US website application to access files between mid-May and early July of this year. The company is also under fire for their response to the hack, and is now facing a class action lawsuit accusing it of negligence, The Guardian reports. Equifax has been widely criticized for waiting a month before informing any clients that the system had been compromised.

The breach exposed consumers’ names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and even some driver’s license numbers. The Guardian reports that the breach also involved the credit card numbers of about 209,000 U.S. consumers, which makes it the largest credit card hack in U.S. history.

Smith is still expected to testify Oct. 4 at the hearing held by the Senate committee on banking, housing and urban affairs. The Guardian reports that several top executives sold stock totaling $1.7 million days before the hack was made public. Since going public with the hack, the company has lost about a quarter of its value.

Mark Feidler, a board member who has been appointed chairman, said that the board remains “deeply concerned about and totally focused on the cybersecurity incident,” reports The Guardian. He also said they are working on communicating with consumers and making changes to prevent something like this from happening again. A special committee has been formed to focus on “the issues arising from the incident.”