Exactly one year ago on Friday, Equifax announced they had done a big whoopsie that allowed hackers to steal the personal data of 143 million Americans, a figure later revised to 148 million. This raised many questions, including: Why does a single private company hold sensitive, personal information for 147 million Americans at all? Why does Equifax even exist? Who’s going to pay for this massive breach, perhaps with jail time?
More than 365 days on, these questions remain unanswered. As the Associated Press reported yesterday, Equifax has seen no enforcement actions taken against them by the government, and everything is going great for them:
Shares of Equifax plunged by about one-third last year after news broke about the massive breach. Since then, the stock has recovered to about $10 below its peak before all the bad news and closed Friday at $135.91 a share. The company has reported a profit of $236 million this year, and second-quarter profit was down just 12 percent from the same period last year despite the breach.
Everything is fine for Equifax. They fucked up so bad that they let criminals steal the data of most adult Americans, but the company is still worth almost exactly as much as they were before all that, less the price of a sandwich. Nothing has been done to alleviate the obvious systemic risk of having a few companies control the entire system of consumer credit, gatekeeping access to everything from houses and cars to buying a new iPhone or renting a shitty apartment. No one has gone to jail. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau isn’t investigating; there’s nothing to see here, says the agency charged with protecting consumers. The company hasn’t even paid any fines, either to federal or state governments, according to Reuters.
Their CEO, Richard Smith, retired a few weeks after the breach with a $90 million retirement package. Where is he? Why isn’t he being chased with pelted tomatoes out of every fancy restaurant he tries to go to? He even got a raise on last year’s salary in March; his work in 2017 was worth 4.9 percent more than his work the previous year, somehow. Did you get a 5 percent raise last year? Did your wages go up at all last year?
The lesson here is clear. Just as with the 2008 crash, whose happy anniversary we’re also celebrating this month, rich guys who play fast and loose with the financial systems that control and define the lives of the rest of us don’t see any consequences for their actions. Meanwhile, corporations will chase down people who are falsely accused of something as minor as stealing a grill, then put them through legal hell to squeeze a couple hundred bucks out of them.
Basically, if you’re going to do something bad, make sure it’s so bad that it hurts almost every American. The perfect crime.