Equifax tapped longtime financial industry executive Mark Begor as its new permanent chief executive Wednesday, as the credit-reporting company continues to try to recover from fallout surrounding its massive data breach.
Begor, 59, 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 after the hack, which exploited a software flaw that exposed Social Security numbers, birth dates and other personal data that provide the keys to identify theft.
Begor comes to the Atlanta company from the private-equity firm Warburg Pincus, but he had previously spent 35 years at General Electric. From 2002 to 2011, Begor ran GE's retail credit-card business, which was eventually spun off and named Synchrony Financial. It is one of the largest issuers of credit cards co-branded with the names of other companies. Begor also is on the board of directors for FICO, the company behind the namesake credit score.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Begor said he believed his previous experience working at GE — which deals with both businesses and consumers — would help him in his new role. Equifax is still dealing with the after-effects of the data breach. About 147.9 million Americans have been affected by the breach, which remains the largest exposure of personal information in history. The company is under numerous state and federal investigations and is the target of 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. “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 in October but it took until March for the board to finalize its decision. His appointment is effective April 16. He will also become a board member at Equifax and leave his board position at FICO.
Begor will have an initial pay package of around $20 million, according to his employment agreement with the company, which will consist of a base salary of $1.5 million, an annual bonus of at least $1.5 million, and a starting package of $17 million in stock grants.
Equifax also announced Wednesday that Do Rego Barros Jr. will retire from the company early next year. He will assist Begor during the transition process.
Equifax shares rose $2.44, or 2.1%, to $118.86 after the announcement. The stock remains well below its high of $146.26, where it traded roughly a month before the scandal was announced.