Equifax will pay up to $700 million to settle with the U.S. and states over a 2017 data breach that exposed Social Security numbers and other private information of nearly 150 million people.
The settlement with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as 48 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, would provide up to $425 million in monetary relief to consumers, a $175 million payment to the states which includes over $2.3 million to Missouri, a $100 million civil money penalty and other relief.
The breach was one of the largest ever to threaten the private information. The consumer reporting agency, based in Atlanta, did not detect the attack for more than six weeks. The compromised data included Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver license numbers, credit card numbers and in some cases, data from passports.
“The consumer fund of up to $425 million that we are announcing today reinforces our commitment to putting consumers first and safeguarding their data – and reflects the seriousness with which we take this matter,” said Equifax CEO Mark Begor.
Equifax stock, which plunged 30 percent in the days following the disclosure of the breach, have returned to levels where they traded before the incident.
At the opening bell, shares of Equifax Inc. rose 2 percent, to $140.26. A share cost $141.45 in the hours before the breach was disclosed on Sept. 7, 2017.
“Through tireless work and negotiation, as well as cooperation with other Attorneys General, I’m happy to announce that Missouri and a multitude of other states have reached a settlement with Equifax – signifying the largest data breach enforcement action in history,” Attorney General Schmitt said in a news release. “Because of Equifax’s failure to properly secure data, the personal information of Missourians was obtained by bad actors. This settlement is yet another example of our tireless work to hold those responsible for hurting Missourians – whether physically or financially – accountable for their actions.”
Affected consumers may be eligible to receive money by filing one or more claims for conditions including money spent purchasing credit monitoring or identity theft protection after the breach and the cost of freezing or unfreezing credit reports at any consumer reporting agency.
All impacted consumers would be eligible to receive at least 10 years of free credit-monitoring, at least seven years of free identity-restoration services, and, starting on Dec. 31 and extending seven years, all U.S. consumers may request up to six free copies of their Equifax credit report during any 12-month period.
If consumers choose not to enroll in the free credit monitoring product available through the settlement, they may seek up to $125 as a reimbursement for the cost of a credit-monitoring product of their choice. Consumers must submit a claim in order to receive free credit monitoring or cash reimbursements.
“Companies that profit from personal information have an extra responsibility to protect and secure that data,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “Equifax failed to take basic steps that may have prevented the breach that affected approximately 147 million consumers. This settlement requires that the company take steps to improve its data security going forward, and will ensure that consumers harmed by this breach can receive help protecting themselves from identity theft and fraud.”
The announcement Monday confirms a report by The Wall Street Journal that the credit reporting agency had reached a deal with the U.S.
The company said earlier this year that it had set aside around $700 million to cover anticipated settlements and fines.
The settlement must still be approved by the federal district court in the Northern District of Georgia.