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Vanity Fair: Elizabeth Warren eviscerates Equifax for profiting “off of its own screw-up”

By Bess Levin

This week featured the probable highlight of Elizabeth Warren’s social calendar: a two-day opportunity to drag corporate executives before the Senate and artfully eviscerate them. On Tuesday, she got to tell Wells Fargo C.E.O. Tim Sloan, “at best you’re incompetent, at worst you are complicit” in the bank’s sham-accounts scandal and that “either way, you should be fired,” as the bank can’t start over until it “rids itself of people like you.” On Wednesday, it was former Equifax C.E.O. Richard Smith’s turn. While Smith‘s decision to “resign” last month presumably resulted in the senator having to edit out some choice lines like You should be fired in the most humiliating way possible, have your belongings thrown out of a fourth-story office window, and be run out of town from her remarks, Smith still got a taste of the ole Warren Special.

Laying into Smith for failing to protect nearly half the U.S. population’s most important data, Warren suggested, by saying it outright, that Equifax didn’t have the incentives to properly safeguard that information but had plenty of ones to allow fraud to go down on its watch. “The breach of your system has actually created more business opportunities for you,” Warren said after quoting from a speech Smith recently gave about how fraud protection is a huge opportunity for the company. “Equifax is making money, millions of dollars off its own screw-up, and meanwhile the potential cost to Equifax are shockingly low,” Warren told Smith, who could only offer a feeble, “The company has been around for 118 years and for most of those 118 years has done good things.” Noting that Equifax could wind up paying a shockingly low amount of money for massively screwing up a lot of people’s lives, Warren added that “when companies like Equifax mess up, senior executives like you should be held personally accountable and the company should pay mandatory and severe financial penalties for every consumer record that’s stolen.”

Elsewhere in the hearing, which was attended by a woman dressed up as the Monopoly man, the assembled senators expressed bewilderment at the recent news that a company that is now the poster child for not protecting customer data was just awarded a $7.25 million contract by the I.R.S. to provide “taxpayer and personal identity verification services.” Speaking for just about everyone, Senator Ben Sasse asked Smith, “Why in the world should you get a no-bid contract right now?” His question was followed by a circa-2007 throwback from Senator John Neely Kennedy, who said, “You realize, to many Americans right now, that looks like we’re giving Lindsay Lohan the keys to the mini-bar.”