WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced today the Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act to hold large credit reporting agencies (CRAs)—including Equifax—accountable for data breaches involving consumer data. The bill would give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) more direct supervisory authority over data security at CRAs, impose mandatory penalties on CRAs to incentivize adequate protection of consumer data, and provide robust compensation to consumers for stolen data.
In September 2017, Equifax announced that hackers had stolen sensitive personal information – including Social Security Numbers, birth dates, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, and passport numbers – of over 145 million Americans. The attack highlighted that CRAs hold vast amounts of data on millions of Americans but lack adequate safeguards against hackers. Since 2013, Equifax has disclosed at least four separate hacks in which sensitive personal data was compromised.
“In today’s information economy, data is an enormous asset. But if companies like Equifax can’t properly safeguard the enormous amounts of highly sensitive data they are collecting and centralizing, then they shouldn’t be collecting it in the first place,” said Sen. Warner. “This bill will ensure that companies like Equifax – which gather vast amounts of information on American consumers, often without their knowledge – are taking appropriate steps to secure data that’s central to Americans’ identity management and access to credit.”
“The financial incentives here are all out of whack – Equifax allowed personal data on more than half the adults in the country to get stolen, and its legal liability is so limited that it may end up making money off the breach,” said Sen. Warren. “Our bill imposes massive and mandatory penalties for data breaches at companies like Equifax – and provides robust compensation for affected consumers – which will put money back into peoples’ pockets and help stop these kinds of breaches from happening again.”
The Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act would establish an Office of Cybersecurity at the FTC tasked with annual inspections and supervision of cybersecurity at CRAs. It would impose mandatory, strict liability penalties for breaches of consumer data beginning with a base penalty of $100 for each consumer who had one piece of personal identifying information (PII) compromised and another $50 for each additional PII compromised per consumer. To ensure robust recovery for affected consumers, the bill would also require the FTC to use 50% of its penalty to compensate consumers and would increase penalties in cases of woefully inadequate cybersecurity or if a CRA fails to timely notify the FTC of a breach.
The Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act is supported by cybersecurity experts and consumer groups:
“U.S. PIRG commends Senators Warren and Warner for the Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act. It will ensure that credit bureaus protect your information as if you actually mattered to them and it will both punish them and compensate you when they fail to do so,” said U.S. PIRG Consumer Program Director, Ed Mierzwinski.
“This bill establishes much-needed protections for data security for the credit bureaus. It also imposes real and meaningful penalties when credit bureaus, entrusted with our most sensitive financial information, break that trust,” said National Consumer Law Center staff attorney, Chi Chi Wu.
“Senator Warner and Senator Warren have proposed a concrete response to a serious problem facing American consumers,” said Electronic Privacy Information Center President, Marc Rotenberg.
“This bill creates greater incentive for these companies to handle our data with care and gives the Federal Trade Commission the tools that it needs to hold them accountable,” said Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy at Consumer Federation of America, Susan Grant.
Sen. Warner has been a leader in calling for better consumer protections from data theft. Following the Equifax data breach, Sen. Warner asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine whether credit reporting agencies such as Equifax have adequate cybersecurity safeguards in place for “the enormous amounts of sensitive data they gather and commercialize.” He slammed the credit bureau for its cybersecurity failures and weak response at a Banking Committee hearing with Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton last year. Similarly, in the aftermath of the 2013 Target breach that exposed the debit and credit card information of 40 million customers, Sen. Warner chaired the first congressional hearing on protecting consumer data from the threat posed by hackers targeting retailers’ online systems. Sen. Warner has also partnered with the National Retail Federation to establish an information sharing platform that allows the industry to better protect consumer financial information from data breaches.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: May 21, 2019
This past week I joined several of my colleagues in the Rose Garden at the White House to listen as the President unveiled his proposal to reform our immigration system. This important measure focuses on areas of bipartisan agreement on the critical issue of immigration, including changes to our asylum laws and visa allocation process.
As anyone following the news is aware, the flow of illegal immigrants across our southern border is at historically high levels. Just last month, nearly 100,000 individuals crossed the border illegally. While these individuals have broken the law, often our immigration courts are so overwhelmed that many claiming asylum are released into the United States to await their hearings, for which more than half of these illegal immigrants will never appear. President Trump’s proposal would focus on securing our border, modernizing security along the southern and northern borders through sustainable funding. It would also focus on streamlined hearings, so our courts are no longer backlogged with an ever-growing immigration caseload.
The proposal set forth by President Trump would also put the United States in line with countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan by shifting our immigration policy to a merit-based visa system. By shifting to a merit-based system, the Trump Administration believes more immigrants will be able to find employment with higher wages. Currently, the average immigrant earns approximately $43,000 per year, and only 55% of immigrants secure employment. Under the President’s proposal, the employment rate would rise to an estimated 69% for all immigrants, and wages would be about $93,000 per year.
The President’s proposal is a good starting point as we begin the discussion on immigration. There is a lot of work ahead of us as we seek to reform a broken system, and I am proud to be a part of that conversation as the President and Congress work toward a long-term solution. It is an issue the American people want addressed instead of continuing to kick the can down the road.
One bill that I stood up against this week was H.R. 987. As I said during the floor debate, this bill is another bait and switch maneuver by the House majority. The original bill was a bipartisan consensus that allows consumers to access cheaper generic drugs. It would have driven down costs and saved Americans $3.9 billion over 10 years. Unfortunately, the majority took a bipartisan bill and loaded it down with unrelated language that banned the sale of certain types of short-term health insurance plans. Over the past decade, Obamacare has destroyed our health insurance industry, taken decisions away from individuals, and given that authority to the federal government. As a result, premiums are skyrocketing, with the highest in the country being right here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. To double down on the mistakes of Obamacare is harmful to Americans, which is why I voted against this bill. While the bill passed the House by a mostly party-line vote, the Senate is unlikely to pass it and the President is unlikely to sign it in its current form, making the entire effort a giant missed opportunity to pass what was originally a bipartisan bill.
I also visited with representatives of the Staunton Talking Book Center, who were recognized this week by the Library of Congress as the Sub-Regional Library and Outreach Center of the Year by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. The Center is located at the Staunton Public Library and serves individuals unable to read standard print materials. I was proud to attend the awards ceremony at the Library of Congress and congratulate them on their prestigious honor.
Finally, during National Police Week, I took time to thank the men and women in blue who risk so much to protect our communities. On Tuesday, I attended the Lynchburg Police Department’s Memorial Service. This service has taken place for over 24 years to acknowledge the law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. This year, we remembered Virginia State Trooper Lucas Dowell and Winchester Police Officer Hunter Edwards. While these men died as heroes, they will also be remembered for their everyday acts of kindness by those whom the officers helped in their communities. Even though the week honoring police has ended, I hope you will join me in thanking our men and women in blue each day.
Bringing down the cost of prescription drugs
Hundreds of Virginians have reached out to me to let me know how the high cost of prescription drugs affects their health and their ability to put food on the table or a roof over their heads. I spoke about this on the Senate floor this week and shared some of the stories I’ve heard from constituents.
• Laurie from Norfolk shared her story with me. She has rheumatoid arthritis and lives on Social Security. She can’t use her hands without the drug, but can’t afford the $65,000 the drug company charges for the drug. Even with Medicare part D, the drug costs $8000, which is 1/3 of her annual income.
• Andrew from Great Falls shared the story of his father with me. When he wrote to me, the drug his father needed to battle Leukemia cost $146,000 a year.
• Marie from Virginia Beach shared her story with me. The drug she needs to take is $375,000 a year. Without the drug, she tells me she will likely be bedridden.
We need to ensure that patients are able to access the medicine they need. So I’m going to continue fighting to bring down prescription drug costs so that Virginia families can get the care they need without jeopardizing their health or economic security.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: May 11th, 2019
Not everything in Washington is partisan politics. On Thursday in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Members had the opportunity to question Andrei Iancu, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It was a wonderful opportunity to address a concern residents of Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District grapple with each time they fill a prescription.
It is no secret that prescription drug prices are at record highs and experts do not expect prices to fall back to Earth anytime soon. In fact, a recent study found prescription prices rose 3.3 percent in 2018, are protected to grow 4.6 percent this year, and could average 6.1 percent per year through 2027. With prices continuing to rise, Congress must ensure that the marketplace includes timely access for citizens to affordable generic drugs.
On the floor this week, we passed bills that reaffirm long-standing relations with Taiwan and promote American business diplomacy abroad.
H.Res. 273 not only reaffirms the U.S. relationship with Taiwan but encourages strengthened relations with one of Asia’s most mature and stable democracies. America’s friendship with Taiwan is as vital now as it was 40 years ago. I support increased relations and was proud to support this bill.
H.R. 1704, the Championing American Business Through Diplomacy Act of 2019, would require American ambassadors to promote American economic interests in the nations where they are based. Ambassadors and their staffs would receive training on economic diplomacy, which would promote the export of American goods and services. This has the potential to grow the American manufacturing sector and further strengthen our nation’s already impressive economic growth and record employment figures.
As I have discussed in previous columns, the nation’s economy continues to show strength. Just this week, Hershey announced a $104 million expansion in Stuarts Draft which will add 65 new jobs. Last week, Merck announced a $1 billion expansion in Elkton which will add dozens of jobs paying high wages. These are just a few examples of how tax cuts and a reduction in Washington red tape has led to investment in our communities and its citizens. I believe the economy can continue to charge forward if Congress identifies and cuts areas of the federal bureaucracy which are impeding growth. I am committed to protecting Virginia jobs and growing our economy. This is how job creators will invest in expansion and add more people to the payroll, allowing more Virginians to achieve the American dream.
I thank you for the opportunity to serve as your representative in Congress. Please reach out with questions or if you need assistance with a federal agency by calling (202) 225-5431 or visiting cline.house.gov.
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: May 4, 2019
It was a special week in the U.S. House of Representatives, where on Thursday Rev. Jonathan Falwell of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg served as guest chaplain and opened the day’s proceedings in prayer. It meant a lot to have an esteemed Christian leader from Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District begin the day’s proceedings with a call to God for forgiveness, wisdom, and blessings on the National Day of Prayer.
This week started with votes of bipartisanship on a variety of suspension bills, including H.Res. 327 and H.Res. 328, bills to encourage greater public-private sector collaboration to promote financial literacy for seniors and young adults. Both the elderly and young people need an understanding of basic financial services such as banking and student loans, as well as the potential fraudsters out to steal their hard-earned life savings and how to prevent such illegal acts. I thank leaders on both sides for their efforts to bring these bills to the floor.
This week also brought Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to the House Committee on Education and Labor. With economic growth at 3.2% in the first quarter of this year and unemployment at its lowest level in 50 years, I was encouraged to have Secretary Acosta before the committee discussing the positive economic environment for American workers. The Department of Labor has encouraged economic growth in the private sector by cutting red tape, which opens the door for job creators to expand with less government interference.
One area we touched on during my questions was the important principle of right to work, a law that protects the rights of workers to get or keep a job without being forced to join a labor union. States with right to work laws are typically economically strong and growing, which is just where the Commonwealth of Virginia finds itself. We are competitive with surrounding states and often land new businesses and jobs due to our friendly business environment. It is imperative that the U.S. protects the rights of states like Virginia to maintain their right to work laws if we are to maintain a healthy, growing economy.
On Thursday, I took to the floor to once again request a vote on the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (H.R. 962). As you may know, this is the 36th time House Democrats have refused to go on the record and once and for all say murder of a child who survives an abortion is wrong. For the 36th time, they have refused to stand for life and against infanticide. I stand with Republican Whip Steve Scalise and my 197 other colleagues who have signed a discharge petition which would force a vote. I believe we will secure the final 19 signatures necessary to finally force a vote and put all Members of the House on record.
The week concluded with my signing another discharge petition, which would force a vote on the Green New Deal. This misguided legislation would hurt the U.S. Economy, Virginia agriculture, and put our farmers and ranchers out of business. Just as with the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, I believe it is time for Democrats to put their beliefs on the record with a vote on the Green New Deal and when it fails, hopefully we can meet and work on true solutions with an all of the above energy policy for the United States.
I thank you for the opportunity to serve as your congressman. If you need assistance with a federal agency, please call my office at (202) 225-5431. And feel free to like @RepBenCline on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and follow my YouTube channel.
Congressman Ben Cline testifies for Interstate 81 Funding
Congressman Ben Cline testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee May 1, 2019 advocating for improvements to Interstate 81. Each year there are nearly 2,000 crashes on I-81, with over 25% involving heavy trucks, and over 45 major crashes a year causing delays greater than four hours.
Current conditions are not only a frustration, but a grave public safety concern. People are dying on this road and the failure to keep America’s infrastructure up to par is costing lives. Cline say that Congress must act to get America’s roads moving again with public safety at the forefront of our agenda.
Warner meets with the 2019 National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with the National Teacher of the Year, Rodney Robinson, at Sen. Warner’s office in Washington, D.C. Robinson, a social studies teacher in Richmond, Va., was recently named the 2019 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). He teaches at Virgie Binford Education Center, a school inside the Richmond Juvenile Justice Center.
“It’s clear that Mr. Robinson has devoted his career not just to teaching, but to making meaningful change in the lives of students who need it the most,” said Sen. Warner. “By designing a unique curriculum focused on understanding the history of prison and the juvenile justice system, Mr. Robinson is working to redirect justice-involved students and equip them with the educational opportunity they need to empower themselves. I am proud that teachers in Virginia and all across our nation can look to Mr. Robinson as an example of an educator who uses his classroom to actively tackle a larger structural issue in our society.”
“Our kids need more – they need more specialized curriculum, more specialized courses,” said Robinson. “I’ve noticed that the kids that have the lowest recidivism rates are the ones we help set up with job or mentorship programs to get them in some sort of positive activity where they can make something out of their lives.”
Robinson has worked for Richmond Public Schools for 19 years, and has been teaching at Virgie Binford Education Center since 2015. In the meeting, Sen. Warner and Robinson discussed the importance of providing students with the resources and opportunities they need to learn technical skills and earn industry certifications that will allow them to make a living in the future.
The National Teacher of the Year Program is managed by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Each year, the nation’s top teacher is selected from among state teachers of the year representing the 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity.