Tag Archives: finance

Equifax does not Owe You $125—Understanding the Data Breach Settlement

Many reputable news organizations have been freely informing people that Equifax has agreed to pay $125 to everyone affected by the scandalous data breach that they attempted to ignore/cover up back in July 2017 (when they delayed alerting the public for almost two months after discovering the breach). The fact is that the settlement does not include anything close to $125 for every affected person.

What Equifax has actually agreed to do is to pay “up to” $125 to each person who files a valid claim…but no more than $31 million in total. $31 million dollars divided by 147 million people (the number of people whose data was exposed) leaves…21 cents per claimant. The total settlement is $700 million, but that includes only $425 million for consumers. The rest covers penalties paid to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ($100 million) and to states ($175 million). The remainder of the $425 million set aside for consumers is for those who are able to prove that they suffered identity theft as a result of the breach.

Breaking this down mathematically, if even 1 million consumers file the simplest claim, opting for the cash payout instead of the credit monitoring (based on the amount of publicity generated by the settlement, I think it is highly likely this has already occurred), they will each receive a check for approximately $3.00. Each additional claimant will reduce the total amount paid to each claimant–the pot is split evenly between everyone who files a valid claim. It may be worth it to opt for the credit monitoring instead.

What will you be giving up if you claim the money or the credit monitoring? Your right to sue Equifax in the future. To be clear, you will also be giving up your right to sue Equifax in the future if you DON’T file a claim. That’s how class action lawsuits work—the negotiated settlement covers the entire class of people (147 million people in this case), whether they file a claim or not. The only way to protect your right to sue Equifax now or in the future is to file an anti-claim. You must formally notify them that you opt out of the settlement. But then you also have to sue them, something which few people will have the energy to do.

Equifax did not agree to pay $700 million out of the goodness of their hearts. They did it because it forever puts behind them the possibility of even bigger losses. Taken as a whole, it is clear that giving up your right to sue in exchange for a few dollars does not make filing a claim against Equifax a moral obligation.