One of the dangers of the Trump presidency is that he is so awful and so addicted to the spotlight that he regularly sucks all the oxygen out of the news cycles and stories that deserve far more scrutiny get passed by.
Such is the case of the Equifax data breach. Almost 145 MILLION Americans (do the math, that's almost half the country) had their personal information, including Social Security numbers, tax ID numbers, email addresses and drivers' license information, as well as other critical identifying information hacked. And yet, Equifax did not disclose the hack (nor the extent of the damage) for six full weeks and only after top executives cashed out, netting millions for their criminal incompetence.
In any other administration, this would a major investigation and the subject of multiple congressional hearings.
But in TrumpWorld, with Mick Mulvaney doing double duty as the director of the Office of Management and Budget and the (interim?) Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (and reportedly in the running for replacing Gen. John Kelly) , what ends up happening is that the CFPB eases out of the investigation and holding Equifax responsible for potentially destroying credit reports of millions and millions of Americans.
But Elizabeth Warren, the founder of the CFPB, had words of warning that this has far-reaching implications.
Equifax has been awarded hundreds of federal contracts worth millions of dollars over the past decade, including one especially eyebrow-raising one after the breach was revealed in September of last year. The IRS awarded Equifax a $7.2 million no-bid contract to verify taxpayer identities, Politico first reported, but later suspended the contract after public backlash.
Warren’s report alleges that Equifax used loopholes in federal procurements laws to get an extension on the contract that was first awarded in 2015. There is no indication that any IRS data was exposed in the breach, but because of Equifax-caused delays — namely, its protests over losing the contract in the summer, and its delay in reporting the breach in the first place — “the IRS was forced to give Equifax an expensive bridge contract, and belatedly discovered … that Equifax was not able to effectively protect taxpayer data to IRS standards,” the report says.
There are plenty of possible consequences for Equifax, but it’s not clear what, if anything, will stick.
Equifax confirmed in a November regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that more than 240 class-action suits have already been filed against it. It is cooperating with multiple investigations and probes, including by all 50 state attorneys general, the FTC, the SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and various congressional committees, among others. It also said it is cooperating with a CFPB investigation, though according to a Reuters report this week, Mulvaney, the bureau’s acting director, has pulled back its probe.
“We’re unveiling this report while Mick Mulvaney is killing the consumer agency’s probe into the Equifax breach. Mick Mulvaney shoots another middle finger at consumers,” Warren said.