Equifax said Wednesday that it was hiring longtime financial-industry executive Mark Begor as its new CEO, as the credit-reporting company continues to try to recover from fallout surrounding a massive data breach.
The 59-year-old Begor will take over from Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., who became interim CEO in September when Richard Smith stepped down from the post. Smith’s departure followed those of two other high-ranking executives who left in the wake of the hack, which exploited a software flaw that Equifax didn’t fix to expose Social Security numbers, birthdates and other personal data that provide the keys to identify theft.
Begor comes to Equifax from private equity firm Warburg Pincus, but spent 35 years at General Electric before joining that firm. Begor ran GE’s retail credit-card business from 2002 to 2011, which was eventually spun off into a separate company now known as Synchrony Financial. The company is one of the country’s largest co-brand credit-card issuers, i.e., a company that pairs up with a bank to issue a credit card under its brand.
Equifax is still dealing with the aftereffects of the breach. A total of about 147.9 million Americans have been impacted by Equifax’s data breach, which remains the largest exposure of personal information in history, and the company is under numerous state and federal investigations as well as dozens of class-action lawsuits.
“We didn’t have the right defenses in place, but we are investing in the business to protect this from ever happening again,” Begor said in an interview. “We are a public trust in many regards and we need to work to earn that trust back.”
Begor said he was initially approached about interviewing for the job back in October and it took until March for the board to finalize their decision. His appointment at Equifax is effective on April 16, and he will also become a board member.
Equifax also announced Wednesday that do Rego Barros Jr. will retire from the Atlanta-based company early next year. He will assist Begor during the transition process.