In yet another indication that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) under the leadership of Trump budget chief Mick Mulvaney is no longer devoted to protecting the public from corporate wrongdoing, the agency has reportedly placed its investigation of Equifax "on ice"—a move that says "you're out of luck" to the more than 143 million Americans whose personal information was compromised in a massive security breach last year.
"Equifax's tissue-thin security allowed hackers to steal personal data from more than 140 million Americans, yet Mulvaney appears intent on protecting the company instead of consumers."
"This is an absolute outrage," the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen wrote in Twitter in response to the news. "Equifax's tissue-thin security allowed hackers to steal personal data from more than 140 million Americans, yet Mulvaney appears intent on protecting the company instead of consumers."
Highlighting the fact that Mulvaney has received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Equifax, corporate watchdog Allied Progress decried the CFPB's move as "deeply disturbing."
"This has become par for the course at Mulvaney's CFPB. If you've given him massive campaign contributions, you should expect special treatment," said Allied Progress executive director Karl Frisch in a statement.
— Allied Progress (@AlliedProgress) February 5, 2018
First reported by Reuters' Patrick Rucker, the CFPB's decision to pull back from its probe into how the credit reporting giant Equifax failed to protect the data of nearly half of the U.S. population—and then took six weeks to notify the public of the breach—was driven by Mulvaney himself, who President Donald Trump placed in charge of the consumer bureau after former director Richard Cordray resigned in November.
Mulvaney, Rucker notes, "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 Cordray."
"The CFPB also recently rebuffed bank regulators at the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency when they offered to help with on-site exams of credit bureaus, said two sources familiar with the matter," Rucker adds.
Mulvaney's move comes as Equifax is facing a flurry of class action lawsuits—more than 240, by its own estimation—as well as investigations from state attorneys general.
Equifax has also faced heat from members of Congress—particularly Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who last September introduced legislation aimed at giving control of credit information back to consumers.
Watch Warren grill former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, who retired shortly after the data breach with a golden parachute worth as much as $90 million, at a hearing last October: