February 6, 2018 / 5:38 PM / 6 months ago

Treasury's Mnuchin says he wants answers on Equifax breach

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday said he wants to know how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is handling a probe into a hack of credit bureau Equifax Inc (EFX.N) after a report that the agency’s chief has pulled back from investigating the matter.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies to the House Financial Services Committee on "The Annual Report of the Financial Stability Oversight Council" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Equifax disclosed in September that hackers had stolen personal data it had collected on some 143 million Americans.

On Monday, Reuters reported that the acting chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Mick Mulvaney, had put the brakes on the agency’s Equifax investigation.

“I haven’t spoken to Director Mulvaney about it but I will,” Mnuchin told the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee. “It is something I am going to discuss with him.”

On Tuesday, the CFPB said it was examining the Equifax breach but declined to give details.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney speaks at a news briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., at the first day of the Government shutdown, January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

“Acting Director Mulvaney takes data security issues very seriously,” CFPB spokesman John Czwartacki said in a statement. “The CFPB is working with our partners across government on Equifax’s data breach.”

Reuters, citing people familiar with the matter, reported on Monday that while the CFPB has an open investigation into Equifax, Mulvaney has reined in the work begun by his predecessor, Richard Cordray.

Mulvaney has not ordered subpoenas against Equifax or sought sworn testimony from executives, routine steps in a full-scale probe, the sources said. They said the CFPB has shelved plans for on-the-ground tests of how Equifax protects data, an idea backed by Cordray.

The CFPB also recently rebuffed bank regulators at the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency when they offered to help with on-site exams of credit bureaus, the sources said.

Republican President Donald Trump’s administration has sought to curb the power of the CFPB, which was created under his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama to protect consumers from financial industry abuses. The agency has been criticized fiercely by the industry.

Mulvaney has sought no new operating funds for the agency, opting instead to finance a slimmed-down budget by shrinking a reserve fund established by Cordray.

Reporting by Patrick Rucker and Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Franklin Paul and Leslie Adler

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