The former Equifax CEO will face three separate committees in the House and Senate this week, fielding questions over the credit reporting agency's data breach last month that may have compromised the sensitive information of an estimated 143 million consumers.
Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith gave his first of three testimonies on Capitol Hill today. Watch live in the player above. Smith will return to Capitol Hill for more testimony Tuesday.
Smith testified before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Tuesday.
Among the highlights, from the Associated Press:
- Smith said the sale of company stock by senior executives in early August was unrelated to the data breach at the company.
- Smith says that while the company was aware of suspicious activity by potential hackers, there was no indication that data had been removed from the system. He said that recognition only occurred after forensic experts conducted their review in the following weeks.
- Smith also says that he was not involved in the approval process for the stock sales, which he says often occur on a quarterly basis.
On Wednesday, Smith will appear before the Senate Banking panel, and he will then field questions from the House Financial Services Committee on Thursday.
Beyond possibly pushing for tighter control over consumers' personal data, lawmakers are expected to press Smith over how the breach happened and the company's response to the problem. A day before the first hearing began, Equifax said an additional 2.5 million Americans may have been affected by the hack.
In his prepared testimony for Tuesday, Smith apologized for the breach, saying, "Equifax was entrusted with Americans' private data, and we let them down."
Smith goes on to run down a series of events that eventually led to the breach, telling the panel what the "key facts" were as he understood them.
The hack was notable for the far-reaching security lapses of consumers' financial and personal information, including people's names, home addresses and Social Security numbers.
When Equifax publicly disclosed the hack in September, there was swift condemnation from lawmakers and especially from consumers who found the Atlanta-based agency's response to the breach confusing or lackluster.
What's more, it was revealed that a handful of executives had sold $1.8 million of shares days after the hack was discovered and days before it was disclosed to the public. The executives maintain that they were unaware of the hack when they sold their shares.
A week after the breach, two top-level officials at the company stepped down. Smith, who became Equifax's chief executive in 2005, soon followed.
While lawmakers grill Smith, there's a question of whether the hearings will lead to tougher cybersecurity standards for storing customer data. However, as the Associated Press pointed out, despite the lawmakers' ire over recent, similar data breaches at Target, Home Depot and Yahoo, among others, there was little traction in legislation that sought to better safeguard consumers.
A Republican-controlled Congress is unlikely to provide full-throated support to additional regulations, AP reported.