ATLANTA - A former Equifax executive learned Thursday that he's going to federal prison for four months after he sold his stock when he found out about the credit bureau's massive data breach before the news went public.
Jun Ying, his mother and his wife pleaded tearfully in court asking U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg to sentence Ying to probation or home confinement.
She rejected that, saying Ying had a special responsibility because he was in leadership at Equifax. But she rejected the government's argument that Ying abused a position of trust at the company.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that Ying did not learn of the breach from more senior officials in the company.
His attorneys said the company actively lied to him after they had learned of the breach.
But, it turns out, Ying pieced the story together from bits and pieces of information -- such as the fact that senior execs were canceling travel, and his team of information technology experts was called in to work on a weekend.
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Prosecutors argued that that amounted to abusing a position of trust, which could have supported a tougher sentence.
“We had asked for the sentencing enhancement for abuse of a position of trust. The court considered that, and it sounded like she was close to granting it, but ultimately decided against that enhancement,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Huber said.
After learning of the breach, Ying sold $950,000 of Equifax stock before the public learned of the data breach and the stock price dropped.
He's already paid the government $117,000 -- the amount he saved by selling early. In addition to his time in prison, he faces another $55,000 fine and a year on probation.
Prosecutors say prison time for white-collar criminals has a deterrent effect. The judge agreed.
“We will continue to investigate and prosecute insider trading in this district to the extent that we find it. And we'll continue to seek imprisonment for folks who are found guilty,” Huber said.
Ying has already landed a new job, and his boss testified for him Thursday.
The judge told Ying she's convinced he'll put the pieces of his life back together, but about his insider trading she said, “You can't walk away from taking advantage of the system. You knew better.”
Ying will report to prison in about 45 days.
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