Who’s hungry for some more terrible news from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau!!! Reuters reports that the CFPB has “pulled back” from its investigation into the massive Equifax data breach last year, in which hackers accessed information about 143 million Americans.
According to the report, the agency has done basically fuck-all to advance the investigation: no subpoenas have been issued, no sworn testimony sought, and offers of help from the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency were turned down. The report also notes that while the FTC is also investigating and has issued subpoenas, its fines tend to be even lower than the CFPB’s—its last fine to a credit bureau was $393,000, six years ago.
Last month, Equifax said it would extend the fee waiver on credit freezes for another six months—but, as CNN noted, consumers would also need to freeze their credit at the other two credit bureaus if their identity had been stolen as a result of the data breach.
This news, while enraging, is not much of a surprise: (acting!) CFPB head and wretched goblin from the deep dark netherworld Mick Mulvaney has made it perfectly clear that he intends to slow or stop most of the agency’s functions, given that he can’t legally shut it down entirely by himself. Just a couple weeks ago, he told the agency’s staff that the agency will no longer “push the envelope” by like, doing anything at all, really. And, as the New York Times reported last week, America’s Most Evil Industry, payday lenders, are thrilled with the new regime: One of their top lobbyists told the paper that Mulvaney “seems extremely reasonable” and has “figured out” that the agency “overstepped their bounds” in the past.
It has probably been inevitable from the start that Equifax would get away largely unscathed from this negligent handling—or even abuse— of its enormous, undeserved, unchecked power to hold information on the vast majority of adult Americans, and that it would remain one of the primary gatekeepers to a huge number of transactions necessary for survival in America—getting an apartment, a car, a house, even a job—instead of being dismantled and its executives humiliated, or possibly pelted with tomatoes.
It’s hard to imagine any administration, Democratic or Republican, within the bounds of current mainstream politics, levying the kind of fine that would cause Equifax actual harm for being so cavalier with personal data, let alone the myriad other problems with the credit monitoring industry. It’s impossible to imagine the government dismantling Equifax entirely, as it once did to Arthur Anderson. Trump’s CFPB is a joke and a sham, but don’t forget: It’ll take more than removing Mulvaney, or even restoring the CFPB to what it was, to bring any kind of real justice to the financial system.