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Credit Where Credit is Due: A Record Settlement for A Record Data Breach

DiCello Levitt wins $1.5 billion for consumers in historic leadership role.

When Equifax, one of three U.S. credit reporting agencies, revealed in early September 2017 that a data breach at the company had disclosed the Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and – in some instances – drivers’ license and credit card numbers of more than 147 million consumers, industry experts agreed that it was one of the most notorious and damaging breaches in history. After hundreds of lawsuits were filed by consumers around the country, Chief Judge Thomas Thrash of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia selected DiCello Levitt partner Amy Keller to lead the multi-district litigation – making her the youngest woman to ever co-lead a nationwide multi-district case.

Equifax lodged a protracted defense, but Keller, who chairs the firm’s Privacy, Technology, and Cybersecurity practice, and her team negotiated a 2019 settlement for $1.5 billion in business practice reforms and consumer relief. “Navigating complex financial systems when you’ve been the victim of identity theft is a cumbersome – and, in some instances, insurmountable – task for consumers,” said Keller, who herself was a victim of the data breach. “We hope that our settlement gives consumers the assistance and peace of mind they need to move on from this incident.”

The Equifax settlement is widely regarded as a significant legal achievement for plaintiffs’ counsel. Recognized by the district and appellate courts as “the largest and most comprehensive recovery in a data breach case by several orders of magnitude,” the settlement includes up to $505.5 million to pay benefits for cash compensation including time spent dealing with the breach, credit monitoring, and assistance with identity restoration. Equifax would also have to pay substantially more if greater than seven million class members enrolled in credit monitoring. The settlement also mandates an overhaul of Equifax’s business practices – including its handling of the personal information of consumers nationwide – and requires Equifax to spend at least $1 billion over five years to overhaul its data security. The value to the class is even larger. The retail cost of purchasing the same credit monitoring services for the entire class alone would exceed $282 billion.

“The settlement’s benefits will help consumers for many years to come,” noted Keller. “Any consumer who was a victim of the data breach – whether they make a claim under the settlement or not – will have access to state-of-the-art identity restoration services until 2029. That means that, if you experience fraud or identity theft, trained professionals will be able to help you because of the settlement we negotiated.”