In any normal society, the top executives at Equifax would be hauled in front of Congress, many would be thrown in prison, the company would be shut down, and all of the company’s assets would be seized. But we don’t live in a normal society—a fact that has become even more clear today.
Reuters reports that Mick Mulvaney, the Trump regime’s head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), is dragging his heels and not conducting a proper investigation into the Equifax breach. Why? It might have something to do with the fact that Mulvaney has previously said he’d like to kill the agency completely.
Back in September, Americans were shocked to learn that hackers stole sensitive information from Equifax on over 145.5 million people. And aside from some bullshit Congressional hearings to deliver a slap on the wrist, Equifax has so far largely gone unpunished. According to the Reuters report, Mulvaney is going to let the company slide by not doing much of anything for the foreseeable future.
Three sources say, though, Mulvaney, the new CFPB chief, has not ordered subpoenas against Equifax or sought sworn testimony from executives, routine steps when launching a full-scale probe. Meanwhile the CFPB has shelved plans for on-the-ground tests of how Equifax protects data, an idea backed by [former CFPB director] Cordray.
Yes, Equifax has an offer to temporarily freeze your credit (an offer that expires June 30th, by the way), it lost a relatively small contract with the IRS, and it’s staring down the barrel of more class action lawsuits than we can count. But that doesn’t mean that consumer advocacy agencies like the CFPB don’t have a role to play in figuring out how the hell half of America’s sensitive data was exposed to hackers.
The CFPB was created in 2011 during the wake of the Great Recession to handle situations precisely like this and to stand up for Americans when big financial institutions are screwing them over. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is conducting its own investigation into the Equifax hack and has even offered to conduct a joint investigation with the CFPB. But so far, the CFPB has been cold to the idea, sitting virtually motionless while the FTC goes about its business alone.
Credit bureaus hold an enormous amount of information on Americans, information that has become privatized and commodified in ways that we could only dream about in dystopian fiction just a few decades ago. And if Equifax goes largely unpunished by government agencies, it sends a signal that’s loud and clear to other companies that control your data: Companies will pay absolutely no price for being horrifically negligent with the financial lives of Americans.
Update, February 6, 2017, 12:50pm: CFPB sent Gizmodo a statement about the Equifax hack that would be hilarious if it weren’t so depressingly dumb and vague.