COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES
|3 Months Ended|
Mar. 31, 2022
|Commitments and Contingencies Disclosure [Abstract]|
|COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES||COMMITMENTS AND CONTINGENCIES
Litigation, Claims and Government Investigations Related to the 2017 Cybersecurity Incident. In 2017, we experienced a cybersecurity incident following a criminal attack on our systems that involved the theft of certain personally identifiable information of U.S., Canadian and U.K. consumers. Following the 2017 cybersecurity incident, hundreds of class actions and other lawsuits were filed against us typically alleging harm from the incident and seeking various remedies, including monetary and injunctive relief. We were also subject to investigations and inquiries by federal, state and foreign governmental agencies and officials regarding the 2017 cybersecurity incident and related matters. Most of these lawsuits and government investigations have concluded or been resolved, including pursuant to the settlement agreements described below, while others remain ongoing. The Company’s participation in these settlements does not constitute an admission by the Company of any fault or liability, and the Company does not admit fault or liability.
In 2019, we recorded expenses, net of insurance recoveries, of $800.9 million in other current liabilities in our Consolidated Balance Sheets, exclusive of our legal and professional services expenses. The amount accrued represents our best estimate of the liability related to these matters. The Company will continue to evaluate information as it becomes known and adjust accruals for new information and further developments in accordance with ASC 450-20-25. While it is reasonably possible that losses exceeding the amount accrued may be incurred, it is not possible at this time to estimate the additional possible loss in excess of the amount already accrued that might result from adverse judgments, settlements, penalties or other resolution of the proceedings and investigations described below based on a number of factors, such as the various stages of these proceedings and investigations, including matters on appeal, that alleged damages have not been specified or are uncertain, the uncertainty as to the certification of a class or classes and the size of any certified class, as applicable, and the lack of resolution on significant factual and legal issues. The ultimate amount paid on these actions, claims and investigations in excess of the amount already accrued could be material to the Company’s consolidated financial condition, results of operations, or cash flows in future periods.
Consumer Settlement. On July 19, 2019 and July 22, 2019, we entered into multiple agreements that resolve the U.S. consolidated consumer class action cases, captioned In re: Equifax, Inc. Customer Data Security Breach Litigation, MDL No. 2800 (the “U.S. Consumer MDL Litigation”), and the investigations of the FTC, the CFPB, the Attorneys General of 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and the NYDFS (collectively, the “Consumer Settlement”). Under the terms of the Consumer Settlement, the Company agreed to contribute $380.5 million to a non-reversionary settlement fund (the “Consumer Restitution Fund”) to provide restitution for U.S. consumers identified by the Company whose personal information was compromised as a result of the 2017 cybersecurity incident as well as to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees and reasonable costs and expenses for the plaintiffs’ counsel in the U.S. Consumer MDL Litigation (not to exceed $80.5 million), settlement administration costs and notice costs. The Company has agreed to contribute up to an additional $125.0 million to the Consumer Restitution Fund to cover certain unreimbursed costs and expenditures incurred by affected U.S. consumers in the event the $380.5 million in the Consumer Restitution Fund is exhausted. The Company also agreed to various business practice commitments related to consumer assistance and its information security program, including conducting third party assessments of its information security program.
On January 13, 2020, the Northern District of Georgia, the U.S. District Court overseeing centralized pre-trial proceedings for the U.S. Consumer MDL Litigation and numerous other federal court actions relating to the 2017 cybersecurity incident (the “MDL Court”), entered an order granting final approval of the settlement in connection with the U.S. Consumer MDL Litigation. The MDL Court entered an amended order granting final approval of the settlement (the “Final Approval Order”) on March 17, 2020. Several objectors appealed the Final Approval Order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (the “Eleventh Circuit”). On June 3, 2021, the Eleventh Circuit issued an order reversing the MDL Court’s grant of incentive awards to class representatives, but affirming all other aspects of the Final Approval Order. Several objectors filed petitions with the Eleventh Circuit seeking a rehearing, and on July 29, 2021, the Eleventh Circuit denied those petitions. On August 12, 2021, the MDL Court made the Eleventh Circuit’s mandate the judgment of the MDL Court. Two objectors filed petitions for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, and on January 10, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the last remaining petition. On January 11, 2022, the Consumer Settlement became effective.
Other Matters. We face other lawsuits and government investigations related to the 2017 cybersecurity incident that have not yet been concluded or resolved. These ongoing matters may result in judgments, fines or penalties, settlements or other relief. We dispute the allegations in the remaining lawsuits and intend to defend against such claims. Set forth below are descriptions of the main categories of these matters.
Georgia State Court Consumer Class Actions. Four putative class actions arising from the 2017 cybersecurity incident were filed against us in Fulton County Superior Court and Fulton County State Court in Georgia based on similar allegations and theories as alleged in the U.S. Consumer MDL Litigation and seek monetary damages, injunctive relief and other related
relief on behalf of Georgia citizens. These cases were transferred to a single judge in the Fulton County Business Court and three of the cases were consolidated into a single action. On July 27, 2018, the Fulton County Business Court granted the Company’s motion to stay the remaining single case, and on August 17, 2018, the Fulton County Business Court granted the Company’s motion to stay the consolidated case. Because the plaintiffs in the four putative class actions did not opt out of the Consumer Settlement that became effective on January 11, 2022, these cases have been dismissed and are now closed.
Canadian Class Actions. Five putative Canadian class actions, four of which are on behalf of a national class of approximately 19,000 Canadian consumers, are pending against us in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. Each of the proposed Canadian class actions asserts a number of common law and statutory claims seeking monetary damages and other related relief in connection with the 2017 cybersecurity incident. In addition to seeking class certification on behalf of Canadian consumers whose personal information was allegedly impacted by the 2017 cybersecurity incident, in some cases, plaintiffs also seek class certification on behalf of a larger group of Canadian consumers who had contracts for subscription products with Equifax around the time of the incident or earlier and were not impacted by the incident.
On December 13, 2019, the court in Ontario granted certification of a nationwide class that includes all impacted Canadians as well as Canadians who had subscription products with Equifax between March 7, 2017 and July 30, 2017 who were not impacted by the incident. We appealed one of the claims on which a class was certified and on June 9, 2021, our appeal was granted by the Ontario Divisional Court. The plaintiff has since filed a notice of further appeal with the Ontario Court of Appeal, which is scheduled to be heard in June 2022. All remaining purported class actions are at preliminary stages or stayed.
Government Investigations. We have cooperated with federal, state and foreign governmental agencies and officials investigating or otherwise seeking information, testimony and/or documents, regarding the 2017 cybersecurity incident and related matters and these investigations have been resolved as discussed in prior filings.
The U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) opened an enforcement investigation against our U.K. subsidiary, Equifax Limited, in October 2017. The investigation by the FCA has involved a number of information requirements and interviews. We continue to respond to the information requirements and are cooperating with the investigation.
Although we continue to cooperate in the Canadian class action proceedings and the FCA investigation, an adverse outcome to any such proceedings and investigation could subject us to fines or other obligations, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Data Processing, Outsourcing Services and Other Agreements
We have separate agreements with Google, Amazon Web Services, IBM, Tata Consultancy Services and others to outsource portions of our network and security infrastructure, computer data processing operations, applications development, business continuity and recovery services, help desk service and desktop support functions, operation of our voice, data and cloud computing networks, maintenance and related functions and to provide certain other administrative and operational services. The agreements expire between 2022 and 2027. Annual payment obligations in regard to these agreements vary due to factors such as the volume of data processed; changes in our servicing needs as a result of new product offerings, acquisitions or divestitures; the introduction of significant new technologies; foreign currency; or the general rate of inflation. In certain circumstances (e.g., a change in control or for our convenience), we may terminate these data processing and outsourcing agreements, and, in doing so, certain of these agreements require us to pay significant termination fees.
Guarantees and General Indemnifications
We may issue standby letters of credit and performance and surety bonds in the normal course of business. The aggregate notional amounts of all performance and surety bonds and standby letters of credit was not material at March 31, 2022 and generally have a remaining maturity of one year or less. We may issue other guarantees in the ordinary course of business. The maximum potential future payments we could be required to make under the guarantees in the ordinary course of business was not material at March 31, 2022. We have agreed to guarantee the liabilities and performance obligations (some of which have limitations) of a certain debt collections and recovery management subsidiary under its commercial agreements.
We have agreed to standard indemnification clauses in many of our lease agreements for office space, covering such things as tort, environmental and other liabilities that arise out of or relate to our use or occupancy of the leased premises. Certain of our credit agreements include provisions which require us to make payments to preserve an expected economic return to the lenders if that economic return is diminished due to certain changes in law or regulations. In conjunction with certain transactions, such as sales or purchases of operating assets or services in the ordinary course of business, or the
disposition of certain assets or businesses, we sometimes provide routine indemnifications, the terms of which range in duration and sometimes are not limited. Additionally, the Company has entered into indemnification agreements with its directors and executive officers to indemnify such individuals to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law against liabilities that arise by reason of their status as directors or officers. The Company maintains directors and officers liability insurance coverage to reduce its exposure to such obligations.
We cannot reasonably estimate our potential future payments under the guarantees and indemnities and related provisions described above because we cannot predict when and under what circumstances these provisions may be triggered.
In addition to the matters set forth above, we are involved in legal and regulatory matters, government investigations, claims and litigation arising in the ordinary course of business. We periodically assess our exposure related to these matters based on the information which is available. We have recorded accruals in our Consolidated Financial Statements for those matters in which it is probable that we have incurred a loss and the amount of the loss, or range of loss, can be reasonably estimated.
For additional information about these and other commitments and contingencies, see Note 6 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements in our 2021 Form 10-K.
The entire disclosure for commitments and contingencies.
Reference 1: http://fasb.org/us-gaap/role/ref/legacyRef