Equifax not off the hook for devastating breach, lawmakers say

Equifax headquarters AP FBN

Equifax (NYSE:EFX) is not off the hook for its massive 2017 data breach, lawmakers told FOX Business, despite a noticeable lack of progress on new legislation.

Lawmakers conducted a series of hearings on Capitol Hill throughout the final months of 2017, which featured former Equifax CEO Richard Smith and Interim CEO Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., as well as a slew of expert witnesses. Though members on both sides of the aisle slammed the company for its failure to protect consumers, neglecting to alert the public in a timely manner and the botched rollout of its remedy procedures, few concrete steps have been taken on Capitol Hill to hold companies more accountable for protecting data and consumer privacy.

The end of 2017 was heavily dominated by a whirlwind tax reform debate, after a bill was introduced by the GOP and signed by President Donald Trump in less than two months, but lawmakers insist Equifax hasn’t been forgotten.

A source with direct knowledge of the matter told FOX Business that Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is working on passing a bipartisan bill that would, among other things, give consumers a more comprehensive understanding of, and greater control over, who is accessing their credit reports, and improve the process for disputing errors. The bill has been approved by the Senate Banking Committee, but still has multiple hurdles to clear before becoming law.

Rep. David Scott, a Democrat representing Georgia – where Equifax is headquartered, told FOX Business that he is focused on making sure the credit reporting company survives the massive breach and regains consumer trust. Rep. Scott, however, expressed frustration with sluggish movement in Congress.

“Unfortunately progress has been too slow,” he said, indicating that more engagement with moderate Democrats might help move things forward.

Barros Jr. and Smith attempted to assure lawmakers during testimony that the company had refocused on making consumer safety a priority. Equifax is launching a product that allows consumers to lock and unlock their credit for free, for life, putting more control in the hands of individuals. Smith indicated this was a trend the credit reporting industry would build upon in the future.

One of the big criticisms lawmakers had about the company was that it would face little consequences. While the company’s third quarter earnings were lower, due to $27.3 million in expenses related to the cyber breach, shares of Equifax have regained much of the losses suffered in the wake of the far-reaching attack. In September, Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) even raised its outlook for the stock to outperform, believing the incident created “an attractive entry point for this high-quality consumer credit franchise.”

Over the past 6 months, the stock is down less than 12%, and over the past 3 months it’s up more than 9%.

More than 145 million Americans had personally identifiable information compromised during the hack, which took place between Mid-May and July.