Monopoly Man makes appearance at Senate's Equifax hearing

Yes, that was the Monopoly Man at Wednesday’s questioning of former Equifax CEO Richard Smith by the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Formally known as Rich Uncle Pennybags, the Monopoly Man in this case was Monopoly Woman  --  Amanda Werner, sent to the meeting by nonprofit consumer rights advocacy group Public Citizen.

“We sent the Monopoly man to the #Equifax hearing to send a message: Forced arbitration gives @Equifax a monopoly over our justice system,” the organization posted on Twitter.

Not to be upstaged by a real-life board game character complete with top hat, mustache and monocle, the senators fired their most creative questions and comments at Mr. Smith.

“You realize, to many Americans right now, that looks like we’re giving Lindsay Lohan the keys to the mini-bar?” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-La.

The senator was referring to the $7.25 million no-bid contract Equifax landed with the IRS last week as the company was hit by a data breach affecting more than 145 million people.

PROTECT YOURSELF: What to do if you were affected by the Equifax breach

Members of Congress are now questioning why Equifax has been trusted to provide taxpayer and personal identity verification services to the IRS.

“Why in the world should you get a no-bid contract right now?” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., asked Smith.
Wednesday’s Senate hearing was the second of four congressional hearings this week seeking answers to how the breach happened and what Equifax is doing to fix it and protect consumers. The breach exposed Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers in some cases.

Smith told the Senate committee he thought the IRS contract was being renewed for work done in the past. He testified that he believed the contract was “to prevent fraudulent access to the IRS.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., alleged Equifax forced the IRS to extend its contract with Equifax for another year after issuing a protest. The senator asked Smith to tell the IRS that they can seek a different contractor.
The IRS issued a statement that said no IRS data was compromised in the Equifax breach. The statement confirmed that the contract renewal was aimed at preventing a lapse in service.

“Following an internal review and an on-site visit with Equifax, the IRS believes the service Equifax provided does not pose a risk to IRS data or systems,” the statement said.

Richard Smith resigned as Equifax CEO after the breach was announced.

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