As many as 15 million Californians may be eligible for a share of up to $425 million in restitution in a nationwide settlement of lawsuits over a massive data breach by the Equifax credit bureau in 2017, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Monday.
The breach between May and July 2017 exposed personal information of 147 million Americans, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and in some cases, driver's license numbers.
The agreement settles lawsuits filed in federal court in Atlanta by the Federal Trade Commission, consumer lawsuits and lawsuits filed in state courts by 48 states including California.
The settlement will provide at least $300 million and if needed $425 million to compensate consumers for past and future credit monitoring and for any harm consumers can prove for identity thefts.
Atlanta-based Equifax also agreed to pay $175 million in penalties to 48 states and $100 million to the federal Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, and to implement a new security program.
Becerra said in a statement, "Equifax, one of only three major credit reporting agencies, had a responsibility to secure and protect Americans' data. Instead, it breached public trust.
"We have now recovered hundreds of millions of dollars to help our families who fell victim," he said.
The Federal Trade Commission alleged that Equifax failed to patch its network after being alerted in March 2017 about a critical security vulnerability.
FTC Chairman Joe Simons said, "Equifax failed to take basic steps that may have prevented the breach that affected approximately 147 million consumers."
Equifax Chief Executive Officer Mark Begor said, "The consumer fund of up to $425 million that we are announcing today reinforces our commitment to putting consumers first and safeguarding their data -- and reflects the seriousness with which we take this matter."
Consumers can find information about the restitution fund and procedures online at equifaxbreachsettlement.com.