A tense exchange at a Capitol Hill hearing on credit reporting was generating buzz on Tuesday.
California Democratic Rep. Katie Porter kicked off the back-and-forth with the CEO of Equifax Inc., which is still engaged in legal battles tied to its 2017 data breach that affected about 148 million customers.
“My question for you is whether you would be willing to share today your social security, your birthdate and your address at this public hearing,” the freshman lawmaker said.
“I would be a bit uncomfortable doing that, congresswoman. If you would so oblige me, I’d prefer not to,” said Equifax
CEO Mark Begor. “It’s sensitive information that I like to protect, and I think consumers should protect theirs.”
Porter, who is on leave from her job as a law professor at the University of California Irvine, then asked him what he’s worried about.
“I’d be concerned about identity theft. I’m actually a victim of identity theft. It happened three times in the last 10 years to me” Begor said.
Porter pounced: “If you agree that exposing this kind of information — information like that that you have in your credit reports — creates harm, therefore you’re unwilling to share it, why are your lawyers arguing in federal court that there was no injury and no harm created by your data breach?”
Begor responded that it’s “hard for me to comment on what our lawyers are doing,” but the congresswoman told him: “You do employ those lawyers.”
The hearing was aimed at “repairing the nation’s broken credit reporting system and holding the major consumer credit bureaus accountable,” said California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, who chairs the committee, in her prepared remarks. She promised a fresh legislative push to reform the sector.
“We need to ask whether the system is so beyond repair that we need to completely rebuild the entire consumer credit reporting sector to truly put consumers first,” Waters said.
Equifax’s stock rose 0.5% on Tuesday, while TransUnion fell 1.3%, Experian’s U.S.-listed shares shed 1%, and the S&P 500 dipped 0.1%.