Equifax CEO weeks before disclosing breach: 'The days are bright for Equifax'

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News obtained video of the CEO of Equifax giving a talk to students and faculty at the University of Georgia after the company’s massive data breach occurred, but before the company disclosed it.

Richard Smith attended a breakfast meeting at the Terry College of Business in mid-August. Weeks earlier, a massive data breach exposed personal information belonging to as many as 143 million people. The company didn’t disclose the breach until Sept. 7.

During the August meeting, Smith espoused the credit reporting company’s financial and data management achievements.

Richard Smith attended a breakfast meeting at the Terry College of Business mid-August.

“I’m convinced if this team continues to stay focused, the days are bright for Equifax,” he said.

During the speech, Smith was asked specifically about data fraud and security.

“Fraud is a huge opportunity for us. It is a massive, growing business for us,” he said.

He even talked about hackers.

“The flip side is, when you have the size database we have, it’s very attractive for others to try to get into our database, so it’s a huge priority for us, as you might guess,” Smith said.


Edward Queen, from Emory University’s Center for Ethics, said the answers seem to suggest a level of arrogance and disregard.

“The disturbing thing was that he responded the way he did to the question of security breaches, about data breaches, when he knew that the company had already suffered a massive one,” Queen said.

He said Smith should have responsed to a question no one at the time knew to ask.

“The question should have been, 'How are you going to respond to the potential of harm this has caused and what are you going to do to prevent such occurrences in the future?'” Queen said.

Smith has not spoken publicly about the breach except for a video the company released earlier this month.

In an op-ed in USA Today, he called the hack humbling.

Smith will appear in front of members of Congress at a committee hearing next week in Washington, D.C.