Equifax, Wells Fargo CEOs Will Face Senate Banking Panel

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By Rob Tricchinelli

The chief executives of Wells Fargo & Co. and Equifax Inc. will testify before the Senate Banking Committee on back-to-back days in October, the panel announced Sept. 21.

Wells Fargo Chief Executive Officer Timothy Sloan will appear Oct. 3, and Equifax head Richard F. Smith is scheduled for Oct. 4.

During the Equifax hearing, lawmakers are expected to grill Smith about the data breach announced Sept. 7 by the credit-reporting company, in which personal information was compromised for 143 million users.

Wells Fargo also remains in hot water with lawmakers and banking regulators one year after its fake-accounts scandal came to light, with new allegations against the bank by aggrieved mortgage borrowers and auto loan holders.

Multiple Hearings

Wells Fargo has taken heat from lawmakers for a year. With its sweeping breach newly disclosed, Equifax is the latest company heading for a Capitol Hill throwdown after a major scandal.

Smith will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee the day before his Senate appearance.

“The back-to-back hearings offer Equifax an opportunity to shift the debate away from business-model busting legislation or calls for the replacement of management,” Jaret Seiberg of Cowen Washington Research Group wrote in a Sept. 21 analyst note. “The unknown at this point is whether [Smith] will be able to take advantage of the opportunity and overcome what should be hostile questioning from Republicans and Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren.”

Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced legislation (S. 1816) Sept. 15 that they say would better protect consumers and give them more input in how their private data are handled. Warren has found a wide following with her criticisms of malfeasance and incompetence at financial firms, and her commentary during the hearings will be closely watched.

Smith’s appearance caps a busy few weeks for the panel. It is also hosting Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton, who will face questions about a recent data breach at the agency, on Sept. 26 and considering North Korea sanction options Sept. 28.

Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said as recently as Sept. 19 that he was still undecided about whether to hold an Equifax hearing.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rob Tricchinelli in Washington at rtricchinelli@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Ferullo at MFerullo@bna.com

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