Rhode Island joins U.S. states investigating Equifax data breach

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 13, 2017 4:24 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rhode Island said on Wednesday that it had joined a group of states probing the Equifax data breach, as the credit company's shares fell another 14 percent amid growing pressure to explain its handling of the hack.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said last week that he was working with colleagues in Pennsylvania and Illinois to open a formal probe of the hack, which Equifax discovered in July but did not disclose until September.

It was not immediately known how many states were in the group looking at the hack, which has spawned multiple calls for federal investigations and pushed the company's share price down 30 percent on heavy volume.

Equifax shares slid for a fourth day, falling another 14 percent to break below $100 for the first time since February 2016.

Amid disclosures of data breaches at a broad array of companies and government agencies in recent years, the Equifax hack stands out.

Cyber security experts said it was among the largest hacks ever recorded and was particularly troubling due to the richness of the information exposed: names, birthdays, addresses and Social Security and driver’s license numbers.

"Since the Equifax breach was announced late last week, we have received countless calls and emails from consumers who are rightfully angry and frustrated over the lack of information and clarity from the company on how this happened, protections that are being offered, and what rights consumers may have against the company," said Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin in a statement.

In Washington, Representative Greg Walden, Republican chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Republican Representative Bob Latta, announced that they had been briefed by Equifax on the breach.

They also said that the company's chief executive, Richard Smith, had agreed to testify on Oct. 3.

"We look forward to hearing directly from Mr. Smith on this unprecedented breach that has raised serious questions about the security of consumers' personal information," the lawmakers said in an email statement.

Equifax did not respond to telephone calls or emails seeking comment.

Stock trader Ken Polcari, director of the NYSE floor division at O’Neil Securities in New York, said the shares are sinking because of Equifax's poor handling of a terrible breach.

"It’s a disaster. This breach has put almost every adult American in jeopardy. I don’t think (the share drop) is over by any stretch. This is just going to get uglier and uglier for them," he said.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz. Additional reporting by Lewis Krauskopf and Chuck Mikolajczak in New York; Editing by Chris Sanders and Cynthia Osterman)