Ms. Warren, Massachusetts Democrat and 2020 presidential candidate, released a letter addressed to the FTC’s internal watchdog seeking answers about the settlement Equifax reached with regulators over the 2017 data breach that compromised the personal information of 147 million people.
The FTC announced last month that individuals affected by the data breach would be eligible to receive either free credit monitoring or $125, but the agency said a week later that the actual amount awarded to victims would be “far less” than previously stated.
Appealing to the FTC’s inspector general, Andrew Katsaros, Ms. Warren asked for the agency to investigate its own “misleading public descriptions of the benefits available under its settlement with Equifax.”
“The FTC has the authority to investigate and protect the public from unfair or deceptive acts or practices, including deceptive advertising,” Ms. Warren wrote. “Unfortunately, it appears as though the agency itself may have misled the American public about the terms of the Equifax settlement and their ability to obtain the full reimbursement to which they are entitled.”
“To determine how the FTC made a series of decisions that will result in millions of Americans receiving only a small amount of the $125 they believe they are owed as remuneration for Equifax’s failures, I ask that you conduct an investigation into the terms of and FTC’s public description of the settlement with Equifax,” Ms. Warren wrote.
The FTC did not immediately return a message requesting comment.
Equifax announced in the fall of 2017 that a website vulnerability had been exploited to result in the unauthorized access of names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses and other personally identifiable information of virtually most American adults.
The settlement unveiled last month is expected to cost Equifax between $575 million and $700 million, but only a fraction of that sum — $31 million — is reserved for victims seeking compensation.
“A large number of claims for cash instead of credit monitoring means only one thing: Each person who takes the money option will wind up only getting a small amount of money,” said Robert Schoshinski, the assistant director of the agency’s privacy and identity protection division.
“Nowhere near the $125 they could have gotten if there hadn’t been such an enormous number of claims filed,” he wrote in a blog post.
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