September 12, 2017

Wyden, Hatch Request Information on Equifax Breach

WASHINGTON — Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called on Equifax Inc., to respond to reports that the firm experienced a data breach exposing personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses and driver’s license numbers of about 143 million Americans.

In addition, credit card information of more than 200,000 people was compromised. 

“The scope and scale of this breach appears to make it one of the largest on record, and the sensitivity of the information compromised may make it the most costly to taxpayers and consumers,” the senators wrote in a letter. “To make matters worse, Equifax is a critical partner of the Internal Revenue Service, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Social Security Administration and other federal agencies that are the sources and recipients of the some of the most sensitive information affecting individuals, as well as the targets of the vast majority of identity theft fraud against taxpayers.” 

Each year, stolen personal data is used to commit billions of dollars of fraud against the U.S. Treasury in the form of stolen identity, fraudulent tax returns and Medicare and Medicaid fraud. This breach could have profound consequences for numerous federal agencies and programs within the Finance Committee’s jurisdiction that are vulnerable to this type of fraud. 

The letter requests details of the breach and information about what is being done to mitigate its effects. 

Also on Monday, Wyden joined a coalition of 20 senators urging Equifax to completely end its use of forced arbitration agreements, which limit the ability of consumers to pursue justice in a public court of law or challenge widespread corporate wrongdoing.

In a letter, Wyden joined with Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and 17 of their colleagues pressuring Equifax CEO Richard Smith to drop support for -- and use of -- forced arbitration agreements. The 20 senators also called on Equifax to explain whether or not it supports a new rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to limit the use of forced arbitration in the financial services sector.

“Forced arbitration provisions in consumer contracts erode Americans’ ability to seek justice in the courts by forcing them into a privatized system that is inherently rigged against consumers and which offers virtually no way to challenge a biased outcome. Forced arbitration clauses, like the one that appeared in the TrustedID Terms of Use, require consumers to sign away their constitutional right to seek accountability in a court of law,” the senators wrote in their letter. “Although Equifax has since removed the clause from the TrustedID Terms of Use – a move we applaud – we are concerned that the company may still support the use of forced arbitration more broadly.”

The letter on forced arbitrations was also signed by Sens. Tom Udall (D-N. Mex.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N. Dak.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N. Mex.).