The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is reportedly backing off its investigation into last year’s massive security breach at Equifax, fueling Democratic lawmakers’ concerns that the Trump administration is seeking to gut the consumer watchdog.
Citing people familiar with the matter, Reuters reported that the CFPB has not taken routine steps to move forward with an investigation, including ordering subpoenas or seeking sworn testimony from Equifax executives.
Equifax, one of only three credit bureaus in the nation, disclosed in September that it was the victim of a “cybersecurity incident” that potentially affected as many as 143 million consumers. The Obama-era CFPB opened an investigation later that month.
Failing to investigate the Equifax data breach would put “145 million Americans at risk [and] is malpractice,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the ranking minority member on the Senate Banking Committee.
“The Trump administration has chosen to protect Equifax while denying Americans justice and accountability,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).
As Reuters reports, the Equifax attack “exposed vulnerabilities in how the companies keep data safe. It also highlighted how credit bureaus exist in a regulatory gray zone where they are partly regulated by several agencies.”
Under former CFPB head Richard Cordray, the bureau and the Federal Trade Commission agreed to work together on the Equifax inquiry but only the FTC has issued a subpoena. And while Cordray had asked bank regulators to join in fresh cyber security exams of the bureaus, the CFPB has reportedly told the regulators that no on-site exams were planned.
President Trump’s pick to temporarily lead the CFPB, Mick Mulvaney, has scaled back its enforcement efforts, prompting protests from Democrats and consumer groups. “Democrats say Mulvaney is gutting the CFPB,” The Washington Post said.
Equifax has said it is under investigation by every state attorney general and faces more than 240 class action lawsuits. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman he is “continuing to move full steam ahead” with a multi-state investigation.