House Dem introduces bill requiring public firms to disclose cybersecurity expertise in leadership

House Dem introduces bill requiring public firms to disclose cybersecurity expertise in leadership
© Greg Nash

A Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee introduced a bill on Wednesday that would require publicly traded companies to disclose to investors whether any members of their board of directors have cybersecurity expertise amid growing cyberattacks targeting U.S. companies.

Rep. Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump creates new firestorm with 'go back' remarks Foreign-born lawmaker: Trump's not going to tell me to 'go back to my country' Battle lines drawn for Mueller testimony MORE (D-Conn.) introduced the Cybersecurity Disclosure Act of 2019, a companion bill introduced in the upper chamber, that would make the Securities and Exchange Commission issue a new set of rules requiring U.S. companies to tell their investors whether they have someone who has cyber expertise on their board. If they don't, they must explain to their investors why this is the case.

The bill comes at a time when "cyberattacks and data breaches against U.S. companies are becoming more frequent and sophisticated," according to a press release accompanying the rollout of the bill.

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The press release cited a study from Identity Theft Resource Center that found there was a 126 percent rise of data breaches that exposed records containing personally identifiable information. This rise took place across all industries, from 197.6 million in 2017 to 446.5 million in 2018. 

"It's not only the shareholders of companies who are at risk," Himes said in a statement. "Americans' private and identifying information is in the hands of corporations who may not be prepared to protect it. The Cybersecurity Disclosure Act will give the public information about which companies are likely to have better protections and cyberdefense strategies."

"Publicly traded companies should have an obligation to let their shareholders know how they are addressing these serious threats or explain why they are not taking measures to counter attacks.  Billions of dollars of American wealth are at risk, and I am tired of seeing American companies play catchup against our geopolitical rivals or lone-wolf threats," he continued.

The Senate companion bill has bipartisan support, with Sens. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedPentagon's No. 2 policy official to retire Senate panel advances Pentagon chief, Joint Chiefs chairman nominees Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations MORE (D-R.I.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerElection security to take back seat at Mueller hearing Top Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime MORE (D-Va.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp Trump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report MORE (R-Maine) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.).