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The headquarters of credit bureau Equifax in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images

Equifax U.S. Chief Information Officer Jun Ying, whom the SEC alleges illegally traded shares in the company after a data breach, wasn't told by the company about the incident and instead pieced together that Equifax was breached on his own from scraps of information, according to the SEC's insider trading complaint.

Why it matters: Figuring it out on his own might be a key point in Ying's defense if the case went to trial, according to David Axelrod, a former supervisory trial counsel at the SEC. "A defense attorney could say he did not have material knowledge of the breach," said Axelrod, who is now an attorney for Ballard Spahr.

The details: After the breach, claims the complaint, Equifax alerted a small group of insiders in a clean up effort it called "Project Sierra." The I.T. employees brought in were told they were working on a large breach at an anonymous client. That group, "Project Sparta," included Ying.

  • “On the phone with [global CIO]. Sounds bad. We may be the one breached. . . . Starting to put 2 and 2 together,” Ying wrote in an email cited in the complaint.

The impact: Axelrod does not believe that a case with this much evidence against a defendant is likely to go to trial, and would be tough to sell to a jury or prosecutor. But the complaint does show Equifax had procedures in place to prevent some employees from trading on the information, suggesting that the company was "thinking clearly" about the trading issue.

Go deeper

Updated 10 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: U.S. ahead of pace on vaccines.
  2. Health: Lessons for trapping the next pandemic.
  3. Tech: "Fludemic" model accurately maps COVID hotspotsVirtual doctor's visits and digital health tools take off.
  4. Politics: Harris breaks tie as Senate proceeds with lengthy debate on COVID relief bill — Republican governor of West Virginia says there's no plan to lift mask mandate.
  5. World: Canada vaccine panel recommends 4 months between doses — In AstraZeneca spat, EU fights hard for a vaccine its hardly using.
Dave Lawler, author of World
13 mins ago - World

In AstraZeneca spat, EU fights hard for a vaccine its hardly using

Macron, Merkel and European Council President Charles Michel (R) at a summit in October. Photo: Yves Herman/Pool/AFP via Getty

Italy on Thursday blocked the export of 250,000 AstraZeneca doses to Australia, becoming the first EU country to exercise an export ban due to a vaccine shortfall in the bloc.

Why it matters: The controversial step exposes multiple major challenges to distributing vaccines — even among the world’s richest countries.

Dave Lawler, author of World
37 mins ago - World

Global freedom continues steady decline: report

The global erosion of democracy has continued for a 15th consecutive year, according to an annual report from Freedom House.

Zoom in: The report calls particular attention to India, which slipped from “free” to “partly free” due to the government's “scapegoating of Muslims” and “crackdown on critics.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi is, according to the report, “driving India itself toward authoritarianism.”

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