Meet Amanda Werner, financial reform crusader.
On Wednesday, former Equifax CEO Richard Smith testified before the Senate Banking Committee…. Today, though, there was someone interesting peering over Smith’s shoulder: the Monopoly Man (also known as Mr. Monopoly or Rich Uncle Pennybags).
As the hearing went on, Pennybags, complete with mustache and top hat, held up a Get Out of Jail Free card and mopped his brow with an oversized hundred dollar bill.
GQ : To make subtext text, why the Monopoly Man?
AMANDA WERNER : I chose the Monopoly Man because we wanted to call attention to the way Equifax and Wells Fargo use forced arbitration as a get out of jail free card. It ensures that consumers can’t hold them accountable in a court of law and basically lets them get away with any kind of misdeed that they want.
GQ : For the uninitiated, can you break down what the rule is and what’s going on with it?
AMANDA WERNER : Sure, so amid these terrible scandals coming out of Equifax and Wells Fargo, Republicans in the Senate are trying to roll back a key consumer protection that restores consumers’ right to sue banks and lenders in court when they break the law. Under the current system that Republicans are trying to protect, consumers are forced into secret arbitration proceedings where the bank or lenders pick who decides the case and what rules apply.
GQ : In terms of Equifax, and the recent leaks, that’d mean that if someone wanted to sue as a result of their data being released, they would end up in forced arbitration?
AMANDA WERNER : Yes. The company made a lot of headlines when the data breach was first announced, and they were directing people to their crisis site. They had tried to sneak a forced arbitration clause into the fine print of the terms and conditions to use their TrustedID [Credit Monitoring] product. And luckily the consumer outrage was swift, and so folks now put a lot of pressure on them, and within a week or so they ended up taking the arbitration clause out of there. But the fact is, Equifax is just a company that got caught. Companies do this all the time, and they often do exploit this big tragedies, big breaches that occur as a way to sneak these clauses in there.