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The Monopoly guy has gone to Washington.
A person dressed in a black top hat and bushy white mustache, occasionally putting on a monocle or dabbing forehead sweat with giant paper money, sat in the audience of the Senate Banking Committee hearing on the Equifax data breach on Wednesday. Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith didn't seem to notice. The person was dressed to resemble the character Rich Uncle Pennybags from the classic board game.
Smith was there to testify about a data breach that compromised personal identifying information for more than 145 million people. His prepared remarks were similar to those written for his appearance before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday, where he claimed "full responsibility."
The Monopoly man is part of a protest by a group that wants to draw attention to forced arbitration clauses that are used throughout the financial industry and limit consumers' ability to take disputes to court.
Turns out the Monopoly guy was a gal.
The protester was Amanda Werner of Americans for Financial Reform and Public Citizen, who also handed out Monopoly-style "Get out of jail free" cards. The Senate leadership has been pushing to rollback a rule issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in July that would curtail the use of arbitration clauses. The House has already voted to kill the rule.
"Arbitration is a rigged game," Werner said in an emailed statement from her office. "Bank lobbyists and their allies in Congress are trying to overturn the CFPB's rule so they can continue to rip off consumers with impunity."
She also showed up in the costume outside the same hearing room Tuesday, when the banking committee was updated about last year's fake accounts scandal at Wells Fargo.
When it first announced the breach in September, Equifax offered a credit monitoring service that required consumers to accept arbitration to settle disputes, something it has since removed. Smith has said that the arbitration requirement was a mistake.
In a message on Twitter, Americans for Financial Reform said Werner was there "to protest Equifax's behavior in the wake of the breach, and to draw attention" to forced arbitration.