The massive data breach at the credit reporting agency Equifax will make it that much harder for Republicans to strike down a federal rule that would guarantee consumers the right to join in class-action lawsuits against financial firms.
The rule in question is meant to forbid clauses in financial contracts that require customers to give up the option of joining in a class-action lawsuit, and instead rely on an arbitration process to resolve complaints.
Equifax included such a clause when they offered credit protection to people whose information may have been compromised. Reportedly, the data of 143 million Americans was exposed.
Democrats seized on the credit agency's arbitration language Friday to argue that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's rule to prevent mandatory arbitration, finalized in July, must be spared from a Republican attempt to cancel the rule through the Congressional Review Act. The House voted in July to strike down the rule, leaving only a few undecided Republicans in the Senate keeping it alive.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tweeted Friday afternoon that the CFPB rule would stop companies like Equifax from "avoiding legal accountability," and warned that the GOP was looking to stop the rule.
Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, also called Equifax's maneuvering "one more reminder" of the importance of the rule.
"It's shameful that Equifax would take advantage of victims by forcing people to sign over their rights in order to get credit monitoring services they wouldn't even need if Equifax hadn't put them at risk in the first place," Brown said in a statement.
New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman said that his office had reached out to the company to ask them to remove the clause.
Only a simple majority of Republicans in the Senate would be needed to stop the CFPB rule. Most have indicated that they would be prepared to do so, on the grounds that the rule would advantage trial lawyers rather than consumers. But a handful have expressed reservations or declined to state their position on the vote.