Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. (Photo: NLJ)

Citing a “delayed and lackluster response” from Equifax, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., launched a formal investigation Friday into the Equifax breach and is requesting a probe by the Government Accountability Office as well as further answers from the two other credit bureaus, TransUnion and Experian.

Warren also wants answers from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on its oversight actions prior to and following the breach as well as from the Federal Trade Commission.

On Friday, Warren also introduced the Freedom From Equifax Exploitation (FREE) Act to give control over credit and personal information back to consumers, prevent credit reporting agencies from profiting off of consumers’ information during a freeze, enhance fraud alert protections, and provide the opportunity for consumers to receive an additional free credit report.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, introduced similar legislation Thursday, the same day Warren reintroduced her Equal Employment for All Act to prohibit employers from requiring potential employees to disclose their credit history when applying for a job.

“Equifax has failed to provide the necessary information describing exactly how this happened, and exactly how your security systems failed,” Warren wrote in her letter to Equifax CEO Richard Smith.

Equifax’s “initial efforts to provide customers information did nothing to clarify the situation and actually appeared to be efforts to hoodwink them into waiving important legal rights.”

The credit reporting agency revealed on Sept. 7 that it experienced a criminal hack of up to 143 million consumers’ personal information.

Warren said that her “broad investigation” will also help in coming up with “possible next steps to address problems at credit reporting agencies and better protect consumers.”

Warren requested that the GAO provide a description of “the current legal and regulatory structure with regard to oversight of credit reporting agencies, including the rules governing how they are able to obtain data, what they can do with it, and how it must be kept safe from hackers.”

The senator wants TransUnion and Experian to “provide consumers with clarity on the danger of identity theft in the aftermath of the Equifax breach, to provide the public with information about the risk of further data breaches, and to address concerns about the credit ratings industry as a whole.”

Warren also wants answer on the following from the CFTC and FTC:

  • When they were informed of the breach
  • Whether the credit reporting agencies were obligated “to report any information to your agencies, either prior to the public notice or after the public notice was sent”
  • Steps that were taken to protect consumers
  • The number of inquiries of complaints the agencies received related to the breach
  • The investigative authority each agency has, and
  • Whether each agency has regulatory authority over credit reporting agencies.

— Check out Senators Demand Equifax Insider Trading Probe on ThinkAdvisor.