Equifax and the other credit-reporting companies could end up in the crosshairs of lawmakers as Democrats gain control of the House of Representatives.
A report in the Wall Street Journal, citing analysts, reported that legislative response to the massive Equifax data breach of 2017 is at the top of the agenda for 2019. The Wall Street Journal noted that existing proposals, some bipartisan, provide a glimpse into how changes can be made to the industry. The paper noted the changes would pertain to how the firms handle consumer information and could include tougher cybersecurity standards and making it easier for consumers to fix mistakes on their credit reports.
“The Equifax data breach response is far from over,” Jaret Seiberg, an analyst for Cowen Washington Research Group, told the Wall Street Journal. “There will be more legislation in the next two years that impacts Equifax and the other credit bureaus.”
In a statement to the paper, an Equifax spokeswoman said the company has undertaken a “host” of security, operational and technological improvements since the breach that exposed the personal data of 147.9 million people. The backlash from that breach was swift, with lawmakers putting up several bills to protect consumers from future data breaches at the credit-scoring companies. Legislation stalled under a Republican-led House and Senate, but now that the Democrats have some power it should be a big focus. The paper noted that Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), the incoming head of the House Financial Services Committee, said her panel plans to focus on the industry and aims to introduce a bill that would transform the industry. Some of the proposals include enabling consumers to have more power to fix credit reporting mistakes and a law that would prevent employers from accessing credit reports of employees.
“I believe that credit reporting reform and holding Equifax accountable for its massive breach are bipartisan issues that touch nearly every American,” Waters said in November, according to the Wall Street Journal. Hearings from the House Financial Services Committee are expected in the early part of the new year and could include testimony from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the WSJ noted.
In the industry's defense, credit-reporting companies pointed out that government oversight has already increased due to the hack, with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau looking into the data security of companies. “A lot has already been done,” said Francis Creighton, chief executive of the Consumer Data Industry Association, a trade group for the industry. “It’s important to point out good things have happened since the Equifax crisis.”