California Democratic Rep. Katie Porter drilled Equifax CEO Mark Begor at a House Financial Services Committee hearing Tuesday over the company’s malicious legal practices.
In 2017, Equifax was hit with a disastrous data breach that effectively leaked the personal data—including social security numbers and addresses—of 148 million Americans. Before that information was made public, company higher-ups were able to sell off their shares, cashing in before the public panic hit. The company then hid a clause in the fine print of the website that enabled customers to check and see if they were affected by the data breach that duped them into waiving their right to a lawsuit against Equifax. The company is still embroiled in legal battles tied to the massive scandal.
Tuesday’s House Financial Services Committee hearing was aimed at “repairing the nation’s broken credit reporting system and holding the major consumer credit bureaus accountable,” according to prepared remarks by committee chair and California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters. The CEOs of the three main credit bureaus—Equifax, Experion, and TransUnion—were present at the hearing.
When California Rep. and UC-Irvine Law Professor Katie Porter began her allotted five minutes for questioning, she wasted no time getting personal with Begor.
“My question for you is whether you would be willing to share today your social security, your birthdate and your address at this public hearing,” said the freshman lawmaker.
Porter proceeded to back Begor into a corner, causing him to admit that having his identity stolen was, in fact, personally injurious.
Porter—who has been serving as a Democratic Rep. for less than two months—then retorted, “If you agree that exposing this kind of information—information like that that you have in your credit reports—creates harm, therefore you’re unwilling to share it, why are your lawyers arguing in federal court that there was no injury and no harm created by your data breach?”
Begor responded, “It’s really hard for me to comment on what our lawyers are doing.” The congresswoman again shut him down, saying, “You do employ those lawyers.”
Most other representatives were more directly concerned with data rights from this point forward. After her five minutes of questioning at the hearing, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez declared, “We have an oligopoly of three major corporations that are trying to collect as much data as possible without consumer consent.” Porter’s questioning stood out among that of her peers for being so poignant and immediately establishing corporate hypocrisy.