This month, we learned that 143 million Americans’ – about half the country – had their personal information exposed to criminals by the company Equifax during a massive data breach. That’s dates of birth, social security numbers, addresses and more.
I’m doing everything in my power to protect Ohioans’ personal data.
Equifax is offering one year of credit monitoring, but that isn’t enough to protect Ohioans whose information was exposed – that exposure isn’t going away after a year. That’s why I’m introducing legislation to guarantee 10 years of free credit monitoring and make it easy and affordable for customers to freeze their credit reports, which makes it difficult for criminals to open accounts in their names.
On top of exposing Ohioans’ information to criminals, reports show Equifax knew about the breach in late July, but customers weren’t notified until September 7. During that time, three top level executives, including the CFO, dumped their stocks.
If they knew about this breach when they sold those stocks, that’s insider trading, which is illegal and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. That’s why I’ve joined my colleagues in sending a letter to the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the SEC to launch full investigations.
To make matters worse, tucked away in the fine print of Equifax’s credit monitoring offer were arbitration clauses that take away customers’ rights to join class action lawsuits in order to recover losses from the data breach.
I demanded Equifax remove the arbitration clauses from all of their products, and I’m glad the company complied for its free credit monitoring. But the fact that it took a pubic shaming for them to do is exactly why we need the Consumer Protection Bureau’s rule to put a stop to arbitration in financial products altogether.
I will continue to hold Equifax and other companies that compromise our information accountable, and make sure Ohioans have the resources they need to ensure their financial lives aren’t ruined by corporations’ carelessness.
Senator Sherrod Brown represents Ohio in the Senate and is a guest columnist.