Credit reporting agency Equifax has announced that it will part ways with CEO Richard Smith as the organization attempts to do damage control in the wake of its devastating data breach, which expose incredibly sensitive information about a jaw-dropping 143 million Americans.
Equifax announced the move on Tuesday, marking the end of Smith’s twelve-year stint as the company’s chief executive. Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. was named interim CEO, and he will have the unenviable task of leading Equifax forward as dozens of class action lawsuits are filed over the cyberbreach.
Smith was praised by analysts for his leadership at the company before the data breach came to light, but the ensuing controversy has seen him and the rest of his management team be tarred with controversy for a lack of security measures and a sluggish response to the scandal. Smith’s ouster was preceded by that of Equifax’s chief security officer and chief information officer.
“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 in a statement, as reported by CNN Money.
Talks of what kind of money Smith is owed by Equifax will be postponed until the board completes an independent review into the breach, the company said. Equifax will also be subject to a hearing before Congress next week and an investigation from the Federal Trade Commission.
“The FTC does not comment on ongoing investigation,” said FTC Acting Director of Public Affairs Peter Kaplan. “However, in light of the intense public interest and the potential impact of the matter, I can confirm that FTC staff is investigating the Equifax data breach.”
Although Equifax learned of the hack in late July, it only told the public about it in September and could not immediately say whose data had been compromised. The company initially asked customers to give up their right to sue before they could get access to credit monitoring services, repeatedly linked to a phishing site on its social media site, and watched as executives sold stock in droves shortly after Equifax learned of the hack.
“The cybersecurity incident has affected millions of consumers, and I have been completely dedicated to making this right,” said Smith, who agreed to serve as an “unpaid advisor” while the interim CEO transitions into the role.