News Release — Sen. Patrick Leahy
Sept. 11, 2017
Senators Also Ask Equifax to Clarify if It Supports New Consumer Financial Protection Rule That Would Limit Forced Arbitration
WASHINGTON (MONDAY, Sept. 11, 2017) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has joined Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) in a broad Democratic effort to push Equifax — the massive credit bureau that recently made public a data breach affecting 143 million Americans — to completely end its use of forced arbitration agreements, which limit the ability of consumers to pursue justice in a public court of law or challenge widespread corporate wrongdoing. Leahy and Franken are longtime allies in pressing for an end of anti-consumer mandatory arbitration clauses, the increasingly ubiquitous fine print that forces consumers to cede their legal rights when signing up for credit cards or many other consumer products. In March, Leahy and Franken introduced the Restoring Statutory Rights Act to restore the rights of Americans affected by forced arbitration.
Equifax, one of the three biggest credit bureaus in the United States, stores personal information ranging from social security numbers to home addresses and tracks the consumer financial information — like loans and credit card payment history — that serves as the basis for Americans’ credit scores. Late last week Equifax broke the news that their databases were breached in a massive cybersecurity attack earlier this summer, compromising the sensitive information of approximately 143 million Americans.
In a letter sent Monday, Franken, Cortez Masto, Leahy and 17 of their colleagues pressured Equifax CEO Richard Smith to drop support for and use of forced arbitration agreements. The senators also called on Equifax to explain whether or not it supports a new rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to limit the use of forced arbitration in the financial services sector.
The letter, available by clicking here, and also included below, was also signed by Sens. Tom Udall (D-N. Mex.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N. Dak.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N. Mex.).
September 11, 2017
Mr. Richard F. Smith, CEO
Dear Mr. Smith:
While we appreciate Equifax’s speedy response, the breach, as well as the public reaction to the company’s use of forced arbitration, underscore the need for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) recently finalized rule that would prospectively limit the use of forced arbitration clauses and reopen the courtroom doors for consumers. As such, we ask that you clarify your position on the CFPB’s rule, and whether, in the wake of this unprecedented breach of consumers’ personal and financial information, your company supports legislation that would deny consumers access to a court of law.
Moreover, Equifax is currently lobbying the United States Senate related to the CFPB’s rule that would prospectively limit the use of forced arbitration clauses. Presumably, Equifax is seeking to reverse the CFPB’s rule and limit their liability via repeal legislation, S.J. Res 47. We therefore ask that Equifax clarify its position on this legislation following the breach. We are hopeful that Equifax will use this unfortunate event to reconsider its broader support of pre-dispute, forced arbitration.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.