September 15, 2017

Warren Launches Investigation into Equifax Breach with Letters to Equifax, TransUnion, Experian, FTC, CFPB, GAO

Letters Accompany New Legislation to End Consumer Exploitation by Credit Reporting Agencies

Text of the letter to Equifax (PDF)
Text of the letter to Experian (PDF)
Text of the letter to TransUnion (PDF)
Text of the letter to CFPB and FTC (PDF)
Text of the letter to GAO (PDF)

Washington, DC - Following the recent data breach at Equifax and the company's delayed and lackluster response, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today sent letters to credit reporting agencies Equifax, TransUnion and Experian; to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on oversight actions prior to and following the breach; and to the Government Accountability Office to request a thorough investigation into consumer data security. The letters are part of a new, broad investigation the Senator has launched into the causes of the breach, the response by Equifax, and possible next steps to address problems at credit reporting agencies and better protect consumers.

The Senator writes to Equifax, "Equifax has failed to provide the necessary information describing exactly how this happened, and exactly how your security systems failed." And, "Equifax's initial efforts to provide customers information did nothing to clarify the situation and actually appeared to be efforts to hoodwink them into waiving important legal rights."

In letters to TransUnion and Experian, the Senator asked for answers to number of questions to "provide consumers with clarity on the danger of identity theft in the aftermath of the Equifax breach, to provide the public with information about the risk of further data breaches, and to address concerns about the credit ratings industry as a whole."

In her letter to the FTC and CFPB, Senator Warren requested details regarding when the agencies were informed of the breach, whether the credit reporting agencies were obligated "to report any information to your agencies, either prior to the public notice or after the public notice was sent," what steps were taken to protect consumers, the number of inquiries of complaints the agencies received related to the breach, the investigative authority each agency has, and whether each agency has regulatory authority over credit reporting agencies.

The Senator expressed deep concerns in her letter to GAO about the actions of credit reporting agencies, noting that Equifax "occupies a unique place in the financial world:  they obtain and use massive troves of data on millions of consumers, but consumers have little to no power over how this data is collected, how it is used, or how it is kept safe." The Senator also requests that GAO's investigation review include "a description of the current legal and regulatory structure with regard to oversight of credit reporting agencies," and an analysis of potential impacts to major federal programs.

In addition to the letters sent today, Senator Warren introduced the Freedom from Equifax Exploitation (FREE) Act to give control over credit and personal information back to consumers, prevent credit reporting agencies from profiting off of consumers' information during a freeze, enhance fraud alert protections, and provide the opportunity for consumers to receive an additional free credit report following the Equifax data breach. For additional information about the Freedom from Exploitation Act, visit Senator Warren's website here. Senator Warren also introduced the Equal Employment for All Act on Thursday to prohibit employers from requiring credit report disclosure in hiring.