Former SunTrust employee said to have stolen customer data

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More than 1 million customer accounts were illegally accessed at SunTrust Banks by a former employee, although it has not yet detected fraud on the accounts, the Atlanta company said Friday.

The ex-worker downloaded and printed information on customer accounts and shared the data with a criminal third party, Chairman and CEO William Rogers said during a Friday conference call to discuss quarterly earnings.

SunTrust detected the theft about eight weeks ago, although the company did not realize until late last week that the stolen information may have been shared with outside parties.

As of Friday SunTrust had not seen fraud on the accounts, and no personally identifiable information such as addresses or Social Security numbers had been taken, Rogers said.

The former employee took information from some client lists, the company said in a press release about the incident. Certain information such as name, address, phone number and certain account balances may have been exposed, but not Social Security numbers, account numbers, PINs, user ID, password or driver's license information, the release said.

SunTrust will provide free identity monitoring services to all its current and new customers on an ongoing basis as a result of the theft. About 1.5 million customers are being notified of the theft, the release said.

Meanwhile, SunTrust posted a big jump in first-quarter profit thanks to higher interest rates and lower taxes, although total loans fell year over year.

The $205 billion-asset company’s net income climbed 26% from a year earlier to $612 million. Earnings per share of $1.29 were 18 cents better than the mean estimate of analysts compiled by FactSet Research Systems.

“While a favorable operating environment has benefited our bottom-line results, our consistent strategy and improved execution are also contributing to our improved profitability,” Rogers said in a separate news release about the first-quarter results.

Net interest income increased 13% to $1.4 billion on higher earning-asset yields, an effect of higher interest rates. The loan-loss provision decreased 76% to $28 million.

Total loans held for investment declined 1% to $143 billion as SunTrust’s largest loan category, commercial and industrial, fell 4% to $66 billion. However, the average yield on all loans rose 33 basis points to 3.97%. Consumer credit cards posted the biggest jump in average yields, climbing 147 basis points to 11.26%.

Total deposits were little changed at $161 billion, as declines in demand deposits and money market accounts were offset by growth in certificates of deposit and other time deposits.

Noninterest income dropped 6% to $796 million. SunTrust booked less income from services related to capital markets, and lower mortgage-related income. SunTrust’s fees from deposit service charges and cards also declined.

Noninterest expense fell 3% to $1.4 billion on lower operating costs and fewer expenses tied to branch closures and job cuts. SunTrust’s effective tax rate fell to 19% from 25%.

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Data breaches Earnings Interest rates Commercial lending Credit cards Consumer banking Cyber security William Rogers, Jr SunTrust Georgia