Equifax says execs who sold shares were not aware of data breach

Equifax Inc said on Friday that executives who sold shares before the credit-reporting service disclosed a massive data breach were not aware of the incident when their trades were made.

A special committee set up by the board to investigate the trades concluded that the four executives were not engaged in insider trading and that pre-clearance for the trades was appropriately obtained. (http://reut.rs/2habhk9)

The company's shares rose 2 percent in premarket trading to $111.29.

Equifax disclosed in September that a data breach had affected as many as 145.5 million U.S. consumers.

Some senior executives, including the company's chief financial officer, sold $1.8 million in shares three days after the company learned about the breach on July 29.

"The conclusion that the Company executives in question traded appropriately is an extremely important finding and very reassuring," said non-executive Chairman Mark Feidler.

The hack, among the largest ever recorded, was especially alarming due to the richness of the information exposed, which included names, birthdays, addresses and Social Security and driver's license numbers, cyber researchers have said.

It prompted investigations by multiple federal and state agencies, including a criminal probe by the U.S. Department of Justice. In September, the Atlanta-based company said Chief Executive Richard Smith would leave and forgo this year's bonus.

Credit monitoring services such as Equifax collect vast amounts of financial information from consumers without their knowledge, working with banks and other lenders, for example, to track the creditworthiness of individuals. (Reporting By Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)