Equifax hires financial executive Mark Begor as new CEO

New Equifax CEO Mark Begor poses for a photo Wednesday, March 28, 2018, in Atlanta. Equifax tapped longtime financial industry executive Begor as its new permanent CEO, the company said Wednesday, as Equifax continues to try to recover from fallout surrounding the company's massive data breach. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Equifax appoints Mark Begor as its CEO as the credit reporting company continues to try to recover from fallout surrounding a massive data breach

NEW YORK — Equifax tapped longtime financial industry executive Mark Begor as its new permanent CEO, the company said Wednesday, as Equifax continues to try to recover from fallout surrounding the company's 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 Atlanta-based Equifax from the private equity firm Warburg Pincus, but he 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 largest co-brand credit card issuers in the country, which is when a company pairs up with a bank to issue a credit card under its brand. He 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 the role. 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. "We are a public trust in many regards and we need to work to earn that trust back."

Begor said his 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. He will be stepping down from his position at Warburg Pincus and FICO.

Begor will have an initial pay package of around $20 million, according to his employment 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 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 percent, to $118.86 following the announcement. The stock remains well below its high last year of $146.26 that it traded at roughly a month before the scandal was announced.

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Ken Sweet covers consumer financial issues for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @kensweet.

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