CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office has filed a lawsuit against Equifax alleging it ignored warnings to secure its system, failed to safeguard consumer information and stalled in notifying the public of a data breach that affected 148 million consumers nationwide.
The Equifax breach exposed almost half of West Virginia’s population – more than 730,000 residents – to the risk of identity theft, tax return scams, financial fraud and other harm, according to the lawsuit filed April 12 in Boone Circuit Court.
“Equifax’s failure to secure consumers’ personal information constitutes a shocking betrayal of public trust and an egregious violation of West Virginia consumer protection and data privacy laws,” Morrisey said in a statement..
The lawsuit alleges Equifax took no action to secure its online dispute portal, despite at least four warnings of vulnerability with its framework in months leading up to the breach. Three of the warnings were “critical,” “high” or of maximum severity.
Equifax then failed to recognize that hackers had penetrated its system from May 13, 2017, to July 30, 2017, after which it waited until Sept. 7, 2017, to notify the public. During the delay in notification, the lawsuit alleges Equifax’s chief information officer excised his available stock options and sold roughly 6,815 shares of Equifax stock by Aug. 28, 2017.
The lawsuit alleges Equifax’s response compounded and exacerbated the problem by initially charging consumers to freeze their credit and failing to adequately staff its call center. It then deceived consumers using the offer of “complimentary” monitoring to register them for a paid service and a waiver of their right to a class action lawsuit.
The AG's office seeks $150,000 for each security breach and $5,000 for each violation of the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act, as well as reimbursement for all fees and costs related to the state’s litigation.
The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge William S. Thompson.
Boone Circuit Court case number 18-C-48