Top executives from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion all appeared on Capitol Hill on Tuesday for a hearing orchestrated by the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, which is seeking revamps to how credit reporting is completed.
And one of the companies offered six recommendations to assuage concerns about what some lawmakers are considering to be outdated practices and protocols.
According to a committee memorandum for Tuesday’s event, lawmakers explained why they summoned Equifax chief executive officer Mark Begor, Experian chief executive officer Craig Boundy and TransUnion president and chief executive officer James Peck.
“Our nation’s credit reporting system has an impact on almost every American. Credit scores and credit reports are increasingly relied upon by creditors, employers, insurers and even law enforcement. Yet it has been more than 15 years since Congress enacted comprehensive reform of the consumer reporting system, and there are numerous shortcomings with the current system that need to be addressed,” lawmakers said.
“In 2017, Equifax experienced a cybersecurity breach so massive that it affected approximately 148 million consumers, which, in addition to releasing the personally identifiable information of approximately half of all Americans, also highlighted deficiencies in the credit reporting system. Furthermore, many have experienced financial and other forms of distress due to incomplete or erroneous information on their consumer credit reports,” lawmakers continued.
“While a few provisions intended to improve the consumer reporting system were enacted into law last year, some have argued for comprehensive reforms to make the system more consumer oriented. Other jurisdictions, like California and the European Union, have taken steps to empower consumers to have more control over their data,” lawmakers went on to say.
Opening statements from Begor, Boundy and Peck all emphasized how each company strives to be as accurate as possible when it comes to its primary function — credit reporting. They each discussed improvements made to combat cyberthreats and more.
Begor began his testimony during the hearing by acknowledging and apologizing for the breach.
While I was not a part of the Equifax team when the cybersecurity incident occurred in 2017, I certainly recognize the disruption and impact that the cyberattack caused for consumers and our customers — and I deeply regret what happened. I also understand that our regulators and lawmakers undoubtedly felt, and continue to feel, a strong duty to ensure that the financial ecosystem is functioning in a way that benefits consumers, safeguards their personal data and is fueled by accurate and complete information,” Begor said.
“At Equifax, we too share that sense of obligation. Credit reporting agencies like Equifax are trusted to protect the personal data we hold, to provide accurate information to financial institutions making important risk decisions and to facilitate greater access to credit for consumers. I am committed to making improvements to our processes so that consumers have a seamless and positive experience when they are facing some of life’s pivotal moments — such as applying for a mortgage, financing an education or buying a car,” he continued.
Boundy stated that Experian agrees with the committee looking to help underserved consumers, keeping data safe, enhancing report accuracy and expand financial inclusion.
“Credit bureaus accurately compile individuals’ payment histories from creditors so lenders can use this data to make better lending risk decisions,” Boundy said. “Good lending decisions for credit cards, autos and mortgages mean fewer defaults. Fewer defaults mean lower cost of credit for consumers and greater availability of consumer credit across the economy.
“Credit bureaus helps stabilize the safety and soundness of the nation’s consumer lending sector,” he continued.
And to keep that stability intact, Peck spelled out six improvement recommendations for lawmakers to consider. They included:
1. More timely updates of critical credit events
2. Establish new standards for reporting student loan data
3. Increase the number of Americans able to access credit
4. Help improve scores and access to credit innovations
5. Protect Social Security Numbers
6. Enhance financial education
“The credit reporting agencies play a pivotal role in the efficient and stable functioning of the nation’s credit system. We essentially act as curators, collecting and assembling information about consumers from lenders, creditors, and others. We share that information with third parties in accordance with specific legal and regulatory requirements, including requirements that dictate who is permitted to obtain consumer credit information, under what circumstances, and for what purpose,” Peck said.
“No other economy in the world offers consumers the quick and straightforward access to credit that we do in the United States. This capability provides opportunities to people and gives our economy a valuable global edge,” he went on to say.