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Equifax Insurance Inadequate for Breach

Equifax Insurance Inadequate for BreachEquifax Insurance Inadequate for Breach

Equifax Inc.’s insurance against cyber breaches is likely inadequate to cover the credit-reporting company’s costs tied to one of the biggest hacks in history, according to people familiar with the coverage.

The company holds a policy that would probably cover about $100 million to $150 million, with costs shared by carriers in the London market and elsewhere, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing a private contract. Though Equifax’s eventual expense may not be known for years, it could be multiples higher than the insurance payout, given what the company has disclosed and the costs at hacking victims like Yahoo and Target Corp., they said, Bloomberg reported.

 “Equifax carries cyber security, crime, general-liability and other lines of insurance, and we have begun discussions with our carriers regarding the incident,” a spokesperson said by email Saturday, without commenting further.

The company has offered free credit-monitoring to victims after reporting Thursday that a breach affected 143 million people, revealing social security numbers, drivers license data and birth dates. The Atlanta-based company now faces multiple state and federal investigations, and a proposed multibillion-dollar class action lawsuit was filed against Equifax. In its annual report, the company addressed the limits of its insurance protection tied to cyber risks.

 Risk Retention

“Our property and business interruption insurance may not be adequate to compensate us for all losses or failures that may occur,” Equifax said in the filing. “Also, our third-party insurance coverage will vary from time to time in both type and amount depending on availability, cost and our decisions with respect to risk retention.”

Equifax dropped 14% in New York trading Friday. The company is one of the three major bureaus that maintain databases of consumers’ credit status, payment history and address information. The same banks that furnish much of the bureaus’ credit data also use it to make lending decisions.

Beazley Plc, which has been expanding offerings to protect clients against cyber risks, is the lead insurer for Equifax, according to two people familiar with the contract. A representative for the London-based insurer declined to comment.

 Worse for Victims

After Equifax Inc. revealed that sensitive data on two of every five Americans was exposed in a cyber attack, thousands logged onto a company website to see if they were at risk. For many, the site didn’t work at first. But for those who got through, a nasty surprise was waiting.

If your data had been stolen, Equifax offered a free year of credit monitoring known as “TrustedID Premier.” But some fine print may also mean that consumers who agree would be giving up the right to sue over many types of damages related to the massive penetration.

A proposed multibillion-dollar class action lawsuit was filed Thursday evening. All told, Equifax could be facing as much as $70 billion in claims, said Ben Meiselas, an attorney for Geragos & Geragos, one of the firms that filed the lawsuit.

For already panicked consumers, that fine print—an arbitration clause—has caused further frustration, prompting federal lawmakers and at least one state attorney general to condemn Equifax for appearing to force aggrieved consumers to give up their day in court. Social media was flooded with messages of concern, with some fearing that simply using an Equifax website to check whether their information was compromised bound them to arbitration—a private proceeding which consumer advocates and lawyers consider inherently biased in favor of companies.

“We are witnessing uncharted depths of corporate duplicity, as Equifax is now targeting its victims” by using “stealth arbitration agreements”, Meisalas said. Hopefully this “conduct will finally spur Congress to protect victims of identity theft by stopping corporations from using poison pill arbitration clauses to deprive victims of their day in court”.

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