Credit bureau CEOs face four-hour ‘grilling’ in D.C.

Credit bureau CEOs testify under a reminder of their firms’ error rate.

It took more than four hours of questions aimed at credit bureau CEOs, but finally, after a marathon House Financial Services Committee hearing on Tuesday morning / afternoon … the National Consumer Law Center’s Chi Chi Wu said what had to be said.

“I’ve testified before Congress … six times,” she said, to nervous laughter. When, she was saying, will anything change?

Later, PIRG’s Ed Mierzwinski confessed that the first time he testified about credit report problems, the Congressional committee was named, partly, the “Coin Committee.”

It’s good to draw attention to credit report problems, so Congressional hearings are always welcome. There was time for a few one-liners, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saying that parachutes with 20% error rates wouldn’t sell very well.

The newsiest thing I heard was the 4 million people — out of 158 million victims — took Equifax up on its offer of free credit monitoring. Another two million accepted a free second year, which Equifax (oddly) outsourced to Experian.  There was another good moment in the hearing when Rep Vincente Gonzalez pointed out that, try as these three CEOs try to argue their companies are in competition, this outsourcing arrangement makes that sound a bit silly. There was another good moment when Rep. Nydia Velasquez asked a pointed question that struck at heart of credit report errors: how many errors a lender can make when telling credit bureaus about borrowers before they are kicked out of the system? Equifax CEO Mark Begor said he couldn’t answer, and would have to get back to her.

Sadly, the Equifax hack drew more attention to credit bureaus, and their failings, than any Congressional hearing could. To that end, I and the team at Spoke Media have spent the past six months looking into that hack, and our first episode releases next week. (Subscribe here)

Today’s hearing was really the first time a sitting executive from Equifax had to face questioning in the wake of that firm’s massive data breach in late 2017 — remember, former CEO Richard Smith was already “former” when he was sent to testify. Sadly, there were a lot of run-of-the-mill questions about what makes credit scores go down, what’s the difference between a score and a report, and so on.  There were also a lot of softball questions asking the executives to imagine how terrible the world would be if credit bureaus didn’t exist.

There wasn’t much news. You can see my Tweetstorm about it here, including some photos. But I’ve learned in the past that readers (rightly) don’t care much for Congressional hearing stories. So, I’ll have more on this next week, when we talk about the podcast.

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About Bob Sullivan 1342 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

1 Comment

  1. Well, hearings are great and all…what are “we the people” going to do about this at the ballot box?
    This impacts our paychecks just like a tax bill or the stock market would.

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