Removing Barriers Blog

Former CEO/Chairman of Equifax in the Hot Seat in Four Congressional Hearings this Week
Posted October 06, 2017 by CUNA Advocacy

It’s been nearly a month since Equifax announced that their data had been compromised over the summer and this week, Richard Smith, former CEO/Chairman of Equifax, was the lone witness in four Congressional hearings.   

Prior to the hearings, CUNA wrote to each Committee’s leadership urging Congress to ensure consumers affected by the breach are notified.  The letters also informed the Committees of CUNA’s intent to file a lawsuit against Equifax in order to protect credit unions and their 110 million members from harm resulting from the data breach.   

During his testimonies, Mr. Smith apologized and took responsibility for what happened under his watch as CEO and Chairman of the credit bureau. He explained that the attack occurred and was made possible due to a combination of human and a technological error. In addition to providing additional insight on the breach, he also explained steps Equifax has taken (or will be taking) to protect consumers: 

  1. Determining when and how to notify the public 

  1. Helping consumers by developing a website, staffing up a call center, and offering free services to every American;  

  1. Preparing for increased cyber-attacks, which they were advised are common after the notice of a breach; and  

  1. Continuing to coordinate with the FBI and notifying other state and federal agencies of the breach.  

Concluding his remarks, Smith also revealed that in 2018, Equifax will offer a new service that will allow consumers to lock and unlock their credit files for free and for life. 

Throughout the four hearings, there were a number of consistent themes and questions by the Committees’ members: 

  • The timeline of when the breach occurred – how the breach went undetected and who was notified when as the investigation unfolded? Is it believable that the executives who sold stock had no knowledge of the breach?  

  • IT Security – how much money did Equifax spend on IT security compared to its industry peers?  

  • Informational Communications – why was Equifax’s remediation plan to assist the consumer characterized by widespread disorganization, misinformation and overall confusion?  

  • Arbitration Clause – why was an arbitration clause included in an original remediation service?  

  • Protecting Credit – how is a lock better and/or different than a freeze?  

Since Equifax announced the major data breach, CUNA has been diligently working to help ensure credit unions and their 110 million members are informed of what to do and possible legal options credit unions can join.  This week, CUNA filed a lawsuit against Equifax and held a member-call with the lawyers that will be representing CUNA and credit unions throughout the country. 

Read the letters sent to the Committees below