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Home / Featured / Kansas City attorney helps to reach ‘historic’ data-breach settlement

Kansas City attorney helps to reach ‘historic’ data-breach settlement

A Kansas City attorney helped to steer a historic $1.5 billion settlement July 22 between consumers and Equifax, bringing to an end a nationwide class-action lawsuit stemming from a massive 2017 data breach of the credit bureau.

The breach exposed the personal information of more than 147 million consumers, including their Social Security card numbers, birth dates and addresses. In some cases, consumers’ driver’s license and credit card information also was exposed.

Norm Siegel

Norm Siegel

Norm Siegel of Stueve Siegel Hanson in Kansas City chaired the settlement committee for the suit, which was based in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. He was appointed by U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr. to serve as one of three lead co-counsel for the class, along with attorneys from Chicago and Atlanta.

Siegel called the settlement “historic,” adding that the breach itself was historic as well.

“It is, by far, by many orders of magnitudes, the largest data breach in history,” he said.

Siegel said the settlement is structured to accomplish three main goals. In part, the settlement establishes a $380.5 million cash fund for restitution to breach victims. Those affected can seek reimbursement for out-of-pocket losses and hours of time spent dealing with issues relating to the data breach

If the claims exhaust the fund, Equifax has agreed to pay up to $125 million more to cover claims, bringing the total amount earmarked for the fund to up to $505.5 million, Siegel said.

Another important aspect of the settlement is its offer of 10 years of credit monitoring, he said. The agreement allows for four years of three-bureau credit monitoring, then six additional years of single-bureau credit monitoring.

Equifax also has agreed to provide all affected by the breach with identity-restoration services for seven years, including access to a call center which can provide services to help remedy fraud or identity theft.

Siegel said Equifax also is obligated under the agreement to improve its data security. The company has agreed to spend $1 billion to do so during the course of the next five years.

The settlement is state-of-the-art in terms of its structure and the relief it offers to breach victims, Siegel said, calling each of its aspects “by far the best, most significant relief ever in a data-breach case.”

The case also is the first of its kind to use a sophisticated digital media campaign to notify class members of the settlement.

The class plans to test the effectiveness of advertising on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Using data analytics, class counsel can work to provide the most effective ads to reach class members, Siegel said.

Class counsel hope the settlement “sends a clear message that all companies should take data security seriously, that they should ensure it has appropriate financial and human resources,” he said. He also noted that very few of the people affected by the breach were actually customers of Equifax.

“I think it is critically important that we have legislation dealing with data security in this country,” he said.

The case is In re: Equifax Inc. Customer Data Security Breach Litigation, 1:170md002800.