Equifax CEO Richard Smith Gets Grilled by Warren

A significant issue exists in corporations' ability to do business after a severe security breach. Equifax positioned itself to give "free credit monitoring" to those affected by their data breach but for only one year.

The questioning between Senator Elizabeth Warren and Equifax CEO Richard Smith in 2017 was one of the highlights of the congressional hearings following the Equifax data breach, which affected 143 million Americans.

Here is a summary of key moments and points during their exchange:

  1. Breach Disclosure Timing: Senator Warren questioned the delay between when Equifax discovered the breach (in late July 2017) and when it was publicly disclosed (in September 2017). She also brought up concerns about top executives selling shares during that window.
  2. Profiting from the Breach: Senator Warren criticized Equifax for potentially benefiting from the breach. She pointed out that while Equifax offered a free year of credit monitoring to affected consumers, the company stood to make money afterward once consumers started paying for that service. Additionally, she noted that the breach might increase business for Equifax's identity protection services.
  3. Arbitration Clauses: Another point of contention was that the free credit monitoring service initially came with an arbitration clause, which would limit consumers' ability to join class-action lawsuits against Equifax. After public outcry, Equifax clarified that the arbitration clause would not apply to the breach, but Senator Warren emphasized the initial misstep.
  4. Failure to Protect Data: Senator Warren criticized Equifax's security practices and failure to patch a known vulnerability that led to the breach. She questioned Smith about the company's responsibility to protect consumer data and the consequences of failing to do so.
  5. Accountability and Regulation: Throughout the questioning, Senator Warren underscored the need for stricter regulations to ensure credit reporting agencies are held accountable for data breaches. She emphasized the importance of protecting consumers from the fallout of corporate mismanagement.

Smith, in his responses, acknowledged Equifax's failures and apologized for the breach. He explained some steps the company had taken post-breach and committed to improving its security practices.

Overall, Senator Warren's line of questioning highlighted the systemic issues with how credit reporting agencies like Equifax handle and protect consumer data and the potential for conflicts of interest when such agencies profit from identity protection services after breaches of their own making.

Senator Elizabeth Warren pointed out in questioning that if just one million of the seven million people who registered for the free credit monitoring stayed on for just one more year, Equifax would earn over $200 million. LifeLock has seen its paid monitoring soar by 10x since the Equifax breach.

And who does LifeLock purchase its credit monitoring services through?


You can't make this stuff up.

About Equifax

Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S., has a history spanning over a century. Over the years, the company has seen its fair share of ups and downs.

Overview: Equifax was founded in 1899 as a Retail Credit Company in Atlanta, Georgia. Its primary function was to maintain credit data on consumers. The company changed its name to Equifax in 1975.


  1. Expansion and Growth: From its humble beginnings, Equifax expanded its operations across the U.S. and later internationally. Over time, the company diversified its services beyond credit reporting, offering various products like identity theft protection and analytics services.
  2. Technological Innovations: With the rise of the digital age, Equifax invested in technical solutions, enabling faster credit decisions and more advanced risk assessments. These innovations helped the company remain competitive in a rapidly evolving financial landscape.
  3. Global Presence: Equifax expanded its reach to more than 20 countries, solidifying its position as a worldwide leader in consumer and business insights.


  1. 1970s Controversies: In the early 1970s, Equifax (then Retail Credit Company) faced criticism for collecting excessive personal information without individuals' knowledge or consent. This scrutiny played a role in the passage of the Fair Credit Reporting Act in 1970, which aimed to regulate the collection and use of consumer credit information.
  2. 2017 Data Breach: One of the most significant setbacks for Equifax was the data breach in 2017, where personal data for approximately 143 million Americans, as well as millions more in the UK and Canada, were exposed. The fallout was extensive, with Equifax's stock price plummeting, numerous lawsuits filed, and critical executives resigning.
  3. Regulatory Fines and Penalties: Post the 2017 breach, Equifax faced investigations from various agencies. The company eventually agreed to a settlement of up to $700 million related to the data breach.

Equifax's journey exemplifies the evolution of the credit reporting industry and the challenges faced in the digital age. While it has enjoyed periods of growth and innovation, its reputation and trust among consumers have been tested, particularly after the 2017 data breach. The company's future will likely be shaped by its ability to regain consumer trust and adapt to an environment demanding greater data privacy and security.

Richard Smith Bio

Richard Smith is a seasoned executive best known for his tenure as the CEO of Equifax, one of the leading credit reporting agencies in the world. With a career spanning several decades, Smith has been at the helm of significant transformations and has faced critical challenges.

Early Life and Education: Richard Smith holds a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Purdue University and was also a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.

Career: Before joining Equifax, Smith held several critical positions at large corporations. He spent over two decades at General Electric (GE), where he held various leadership roles across numerous divisions, including GE Electrical Distribution and Control, GE Appliances, GE Plastics, and GE Aircraft Engines.

Tenure at Equifax:

  • CEO and Chairman: Smith joined Equifax in 2005 as the CEO and later took on the role of Chairman in 2006. Under his leadership, Equifax expanded its global footprint and diversified its product offerings, solidifying its position as one of the top credit reporting agencies in the world.
  • Digital Transformation: During Smith's tenure, Equifax underwent a significant digital transformation, adapting to the needs of the digital age and offering more sophisticated data analytics services.
  • 2017 Data Breach: Smith's leadership faced a significant test in 2017 when Equifax experienced a massive data breach that affected approximately 143 million Americans. The breach, resulting from a failure to patch a known vulnerability, was one of the largest in history and led to immense scrutiny from the public, regulators, and lawmakers.
  • Resignation: In the aftermath of the 2017 data breach, Smith retired from Equifax. The breach's handling and the delay in public disclosure were significant factors leading to his departure.

Post-Equifax: After leaving Equifax, Smith appeared before Congress to answer questions about the breach and the company's response. The experience marked a defining moment in his career, emphasizing the importance of cybersecurity and data protection for corporate leaders.

Personal Attributes: Richard Smith has been described as a forward-thinking leader committed to innovation and growth. However, his legacy at Equifax is mixed, given the significant achievements during his tenure and the shadow of the 2017 data breach.

Conclusion: While Richard Smith's leadership at Equifax led to notable expansions and advancements, his tenure is often overshadowed by the 2017 data breach. As a business leader, his career serves as a case study of the challenges of leading in the digital age, where cybersecurity risks pose significant threats to even the most established institutions.

Elizabeth Warren Bio

Elizabeth Warren, a prominent figure in American politics, is known for her passionate advocacy for consumer protection, financial regulation, and progressive policies. From her academic pursuits to her impactful political career, Warren has consistently championed the rights of the average American against large institutions and corporate interests.

Early Life and Education:

  • Born on June 22, 1949, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Elizabeth Ann Herring grew up in a middle-class family. Her family's financial struggles during her childhood would later profoundly influence her policy priorities.
  • Warren attended the University of Houston, earning a Bachelor's degree in speech pathology and audiology. She later obtained a J.D. from Rutgers Law School.

Academic Career:

  • Before entering politics, Warren had a distinguished academic career, teaching law at various universities, including the University of Texas Law School, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Harvard Law School.
  • Her research primarily focused on bankruptcy and personal finance. Through her work, she highlighted the financial struggles of middle-class families and the need for comprehensive bankruptcy reforms.

Advocacy and Policy Work:

  • Elizabeth Warren was a key advocate for creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), conceptualizing it as a way to protect consumers from financial fraud and predatory lending practices. Though instrumental in setting it up, she was not appointed its director.

Political Career:

  • U.S. Senator: In 2012 Warren ran for the U.S. Senate to represent Massachusetts. She won the election, defeating incumbent Senator Scott Brown. As a Senator, she became known for her rigorous questioning in Senate hearings and focus on financial regulation, healthcare, and education.
  • Presidential Run: In 2019, Elizabeth Warren announced her candidacy for the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Throughout her campaign, she emphasized themes like wealth inequality, corporate responsibility, and structural change. Although she gained significant attention and support, she suspended her campaign in March 2020 after the Super Tuesday primaries.

Personal Life:

  • Warren has married Bruce Mann, a legal historian, since 1980. They have two children. Throughout her life, she has spoken about her Native American ancestry, a point that has been a topic of controversy and political debate.

Books and Publications:

  • Warren is a prolific writer and has authored several books. Some of her notable works include "The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke" and "This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America's Middle Class."

Conclusion: Elizabeth Warren's journey from academia to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C., is marked by her unwavering commitment to consumer protection and financial reform. A fierce advocate for the middle class, Warren's influence on American politics and policy is significant and enduring.