Credit bureau Equifax announced a teensie-weensie little data breach that affected approximately 140 million Americans back in 2017. Over 209,000 credit card numbers were stolen, along with an encyclopedia-worth of personal information. So Equifax and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) came to an agreement that the bureau would pay a settlement, resulting in a payout of $125 for those impacted by the breach. People jumped on the opportunity for cash at which point Equifax said oops, just kidding, we prooooobably don’t have enough money for y’all, but you can get free credit monitoring instead.
People were understandably pissed, both because they were promised money and because there weren’t given an absolute “no” by Equifax, just a suggestion from the FTC to be a more responsible credit card owner. In response, many irritated users said, you’re not my mom, where is my money, why are you asking me to give up this cash reward so that other people, who didn’t take up the offer, could get their cash reward?
But, as of Thursday, the consumer let-down is official, due to a twist of judicial irony. Equifax doesn't have nearly enough money set aside in the settlement for everyone who claimed the cash, because a judge just awarded the attorneys in a lawsuit against Equifax $77.5 million, which is over 20% of the original $380 million settlement fund, according to a report by CNBC.
Ted Frank, director of litigation for Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute, told CNBC that “consumers were never going to get $125,” and that, even though the class counsel blamed media for the shortage of money, the press release did not make that claim, and “there was a reason people thought they were getting $125.”
“The FTC let themselves get snookered by the class counsel into believing how good this settlement was,” he said to CNBC. “That’s why their press release was misleading. It’s unfortunate because they’re supposed to looking out for consumers here and instead they signed off on a settlement where the beneficiaries are really the attorneys.”
But there’s one remaining glimmer of home: Attorney Amy Keller, co-lead counsel for consumers in the case against Equifax, told CNBC that you can still be reimbursed for the money you may have spent as a result of the breach. Find out more information here. And sorry.