HUNTSVILLE, Ala – Equifax will pay up to $700 million to settle with the Federal Trade Commission and others over a 2017 data breach that exposed Social Security numbers and other private information of nearly 150 million people.
The proposed settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, if approved by the federal district court Northern District of Georgia, will provide up to $425 million in monetary relief to consumers, a $100 million civil money penalty, and other relief. The bureau coordinated its investigation with the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general from across the U.S.
The announcement Monday confirms a report by The Wall Street Journal that the credit reporting agency had reached a deal with the U.S.
Attorney General Steve Marshall announced the state of Alabama is also part of the settlement.
In a news release, Marshall said Equifax “failed utterly.”
“Equifax failed utterly in its responsibility to safeguard the information of consumers with due diligence, with consequences of untold harm by identity thefts that have occurred and may yet occur. This settlement provides important steps to compensate consumers and mitigate the damage from Equifax’s careless practices. Perhaps as significant is the message to other businesses that they will be held to account for maintaining a high standard of protection for their customers’ data.”
Attorney Eric Artrip was the first lawyer in north Alabama to file a class-action lawsuit against Equifax. He says a settlement has been in the works for a few months.
“There have been a variety of terms discussed, but when they finally came to a resolution as a result of mediations a couple of weeks ago and we’re very pleased with what happened,” Artrip said.
He has two clients named on the complaint filed by the attorneys general.
“Two of our clients were on the named complaint that was filed in Atlanta so there was a representative from every state and our firm represented two of individuals that were from different states, one from Utah, one from here in Alabama. They’re both very satisfied with the settlement terms, they’ve signed off on it. They’re very pleased with the results,” he said.
According to an FTC website, people who file a claim can request free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services, cash payments which are capped at $20,000 per person, free help recovering from identity theft and free credit reports.
The claims process hasn’t started yet. Artrip says that won’t happen until a judge approves the settlement.
“When they do the claims process will then begin. Direct notice will then be sent via email and mail and other media including magazines, and television,” Artrip said.
It’s unclear when a judge will make a decision. Consumers affected by the 2017 data breach, including 2.3 million Alabama residents, will be required to submit claims online or by mail.
For updates and more information, consumers can visit ftc.gov/Equifax or call (833) 759-2982.