When a company screws up and puts the general public at risk the only acceptable course of action is to immediately go transparent. Equifax, through sheer incompetence, exposed the data of 143 million people after a recent hack. Every single one of those individuals remain vulnerable to identity theft. Now, its executives are activating million-dollar retirement plans while the rest of us stand here with our data in the wind.
Equifax didn’t rush to aid investigators or offer any solutions for those of us left waiting for some low-level hacker to start purchasing black-market drugs using our stolen identity. Instead, it quietly divested stock; it allowed several executives to retire before the announcement was made; and now that the cat is entirely out of the bag, former CEO Richard Smith is retiring with a $15 million-dollar parachute.
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I don’t know what color that parachute is – what shade is “fuck you” on the color-wheel?
Most of us live in a world where stealing from the break-room is grounds for dismissal; it’s stomach-churning to imagine anything short of a trial-by-jury for what – allegedly – could be considered stock-market manipulation. Equifax conducted millions of dollars in good-faith financial transactions before reporting the breach, after it knew what had happened.
And a clear failure to report a breach of privacy should be more than enough for a class-action lawsuit. This is, of course, if everything is as it appears to be – the company is still under federal investigation.
It’s difficult to understand why the CEO deserves $15 million; if Smith’s leadership wasn’t criminal it was an utter failure in every other way. Especially when the scent of Enron is so heavy in the air surrounding Smith’s former company.
Yet, one glance at the company earnings explains everything: on the way to losing your data to hackers, Equifax was churning over huge profits, the company’s stock rose 200 percent. Everything else, in business, is background noise for the company lawyers to worry about.
The Equifax situation isn’t the same as the Enron one, but there are similarities. For starters, Enron systematically chose to commit fraud over a long period of time. Equifax was hacked, and then decided to, allegedly, commit fraud thereafter. It’s a minor distinction, but an important one.
Far be it from me to suggest that the executives of Equifax deserve jail-time, like those of Enron — that’s for a jury to determine. I’d just like someone to explain what’s just about 143 million people being exposed to identity-theft while the person in charge of the offending company gets 15 million dollars to spend on his retirement.
In a final word of fairness, it should be acknowledged that the new CEO of Equifax has issued apologies and offered to retool the way the company does business — a move that would mean much more if it came with the magical ability to get our sensitive data back.