Equifax CEO out; Smith couldn’t survive bumbling response to huge hack

Equifax CEO Richard Smith is out.

Equifax CEO Richard Smith left his job Tuesday, becoming the second high-profile CEO in recent years to be ousted after a blockbuster hack.  While Smith wasn’t immediately replaced — as his security executives were — he apparently could not survive the firm’s bumbling response in the hack’s aftermath.

Word of the massive hack first came in a press released headlined,”No Evidence of Unauthorized Access to Core Consumer or Commercial Credit Reporting Databases.” (That release, and Smith’s video about the hack, seem to have been quietly expunged from Equifax’s website devoted to the hack.  A copy of the release is available here. ) (UPDATE 11:25 a.m. ET – the release has been restored and can be viewed in its normal place, here.)

Equifax has since come under heavy criticism for not staffing up in the wake of the breach and failing to answer even basic questions about it. (Ron Lieber at the New York Times has chronicled this issue.)

Smith was scheduled to testify before a House committee on Oct. 3 and a Senate committee the following day.  It was not immediately clear if Equifax would send other representatives to those hearings.

“On behalf of the Board, I express my appreciation to Rick for his 12 years of leadership. Equifax is a substantially stronger company than it was 12 years ago,” said board member Mark Feidler.

Many consumers wouldn’t agree. At least one stock analyst does, however. Just days ago, Wells Fargo upgraded Equifax stock to “outperform,” saying the megabreach and fallout “have created, in our opinion, an attractive entry point for this high-quality consumer credit franchise.”

Smith’s ouster did come much quicker than the removal of former Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel after that firm’s high-profile hack. That firm initially revealed a massive credit card hack in December 2013. Steinhafel left the firm the following May.


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About Bob Sullivan 1638 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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