You have the right to object to the Equifax settlement. Here’s how.

Reuben Metcalfe
Nov 8 · 10 min read
HECK YEAH INDEPENDENT ACCESS TO JUSTICE

TLDR FACTS:

HOW TO OBJECT:

Simply ask our chat-bot Clarence to do it for you by clicking here.

Shia LaBeouf wants you to object.
Shia LaBeouf wants you to object.
Shia LaBeouf would. In fact, he probably already has.

THE STORY:

It was 2AM, and the the tone of the 7–11 employee counter had changed.

Brow now certifiably furrowed, he eventually landed on “I won’t sell” before (now rather pointedly) completing my coffee purchase.

Like myself, this hard working fellow’s personal data had been compromised in The Worst Data Breach in History involving roughly half the US population and I suspect, the vast majority of those reading this post.

Unlike myself, he hadn’t the context of having filed tens of thousands of class action claims that week.Indeed, he was aware of neither the settlement, the data breach, nor the existence of any credit bureau, including Equifax.

Naturally, when I asked him for how much he’d be willing to sell me his first and last name, email and physical addresses, telephone number, credit card number, social security number and drivers license details for …He assumed it was a joke.

You’d think selling SSN’s would be illegal. It is not.

I mean it sounds like it must be a joke... Doesn’t it?

Is there a scenario in which that question isn’t patently ludicrous?

His story is not uncommon. Over the past few months I’ve asked the same question of clerks, bankers, mothers, friends, or anyone with enough patience (or perhaps the temperament) for a curve-ball from a stranger.

Most refuse to entertain the question entirely and — when pushed — will answer in the ‘tens of thousands to millions’ range.

Still, we now find ourselves with what most believe to be only three options in the Equifax settlement as follows;

1) File a claim for $125–250 per person.

Only you’re much more likely to receive less than five dollars, due to a capped $31M settlement pool with completely predictable claim volumes.

GET YOUR $125 NOW BEFORE ITS PREDICTABLY $5

2) Accept credit monitoring services from Experian

Of course, they recently settled their own data-breach class action for sixteen million Californian T Mobile users. So one might be forgiven for feeling odd about handing ones data over so that they too can sell it to their clients.

We can protect your data this time… we just need a little more of it if that’s okay.

3) Shake our heads, and do nothing.

…And watch as Equifax’s stock climbs higher than it was prior to the breach, whilst simultaneously losing your legal rights to sue or participate in any future outcome of any litigation related to the event.

Tempting.

Here’s two options you may not have heard of:

4) Opting out

Usually only attorneys (or those with the means to hire one) have the awareness and access to exercise their right to opt-out of a class action settlement in order to pursue their rights individually. That being said, there are a number who have received multi-thousand dollar judgments in their favor from pursuing this path in small claims court.

Opting out means you’re on your own — which may not be a bad idea if you’re willing to put the time in.

…And then there’s this option:

5) You can object to the settlement(!)

Objecting is kind of a big deal.

If you were not aware you had to the right to object, it is because every actor in the class action ecosystem is actively incentivized to ensure that is the case.

What could possibly be so important about this mechanism, that both plaintiffs and defense counsel would make it as difficult as possible?

To put it simply; If class actions were a finely tuned system of checks and balances (which they can be and often are) filing an objection would be the equivalent of someone walking in with a bomb strapped to their chest.

It is essentially a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the settlement, and it causes a lot of trouble for those who are trying to approve the deal. In this case, a successful objection or group of objections would;

  • Prevent the settlement from being approved as-is.
  • Prevent class counsel from receiving a $77.5M paycheck.
  • Prevent Experian from receiving a great deal of money for their ‘free’ credit monitoring services (paid in part by some of the $669M that doesn’t go to you.)
  • Pave the path for an immediate appeal against a judges decision if they decide to overrule such objections and,
  • Expose Equifax to the full extent of any and all liability the class action settlement would otherwise waive in lieu.

Unsurprisingly, filing an objection (as noted in Q25 on this FAQ) is not as easy as filing a claim for the not-really-$125.

Whilst there is no legal reason to prioritize one legal right over another, filing objections for class actions are reliably several times harder, invariably involving physical letters, often sent to multiple physical addresses.

That being said, even among ‘normally’ difficult processes… This settlement has perhaps the MOST unduly burdensome we’ve seen to date… And we’ve seen hundreds in our role as the worlds leading (okay okay — the only) online class action claims filing service for consumers.

On learning this, I had to remind myself as to why I started this company.

You see, the Equifax Data breach happened shortly after I was inspired (incensed?) to start Class Action Inc in 2017.

When this settlement finally across our desk years later, I immediately told my Facebook friends to ‘wait for a moment’ before filing a claim… The numbers didn’t add up, and whilst it’s common for consumer class action claims to see low participation rates (The average US resident is part of 3–4 class actions each year, yet files only one claim every five years) … This settlement was…

Well.

Unsettling.

  1. The consumer cash portion is less than 5% of the total settlement pool
  2. The proposed credit monitoring supplier only recently settled a large-scale data breach of their own.
  3. The payment is likely to be orders of magnitude less than what was advertised.
  4. The attorneys representing the class are getting double the total cash portion of their consumer client base. (One presumes they refused to be paid in $77.5M worth of free credit monitoring.)
  5. The defendant’s share price has SKYROCKETED, with speculators touting stock as ‘a buy right now’…Perhaps the Equifax execs who sold $2 Million worth of stock after the breach but before the announcement should have held on a little longer, hey?

But you know… Not everyone cares about this kind of thing.

Only a small percentage of the population people pay real attention to data, privacy rights, or related class actions and their outcomes. Out of sight, out of mind right? Life is for living — not dwelling on what happened in the past!

Still, to the extent you wouldn’t sell your SSN and credit card details to a stranger on the street for $5, and to the extent a necessary part of my job is to observe hundreds of class actions a year… SOMEONE should probably speak up when things aren’t working like they’re supposed to.

As the filing deadlines has approached in recent weeks, with a few notable exceptions — I haven’t seen many offering real solutions for consumers who’ve felt frustrated with what can feel like an abuse of power, and a mistaken belief that they are powerless.

In truth, class members are more powerful than you might think.

Given our role, we’ve decided it’s our job to let them know that fact.

Hey, you’d do the same for us, right?

So!

Here’s the deal:

I Reuben Metcalfe, founder of Class Action, Inc, whilst having no desire to alienate myself or my company from the class action plaintiffs bar, the class action defense bar, or the judiciary who oversee this critical part of the US legal infrastructure, am pretty much done with being quiet about just how bad of a mess the class action system has become:

  • Claims rates are regularly in the single digit range.
  • Coupon settlements are (somehow) alive and well.
  • Adhesive arbitration agreements are being increasingly upheld.
  • Collective power wanes, along with the faith in the system so many stewards of justice spent their lives to earn and maintain.

Perhaps it is the current climate, but it feels as though the fabric of trust upon which the strength of the rule of law rests, increasingly frays at the seams.

If we are to repair and maintain this rich and valuable tapestry then, we must prepare to speak and act in its service when the opportunity presents itself.

Here’s what we’re doing about it:

Starting today, our claims-filing robot bear Clarence will not only file claims for class action settlements.

He will now file opt-outs and objections. (For free.)

Why would a company simultaneously antagonize both the class action plaintiffs bar and the collective legal resources of the Fortune 500?

Quite simply, we believe it’s the most sustainable long-term path.

While some corporations see fit to censor their own communities for fear of retaliation from national interests, we choose to empower the voice of our community, and to join them with a voice of our own.

On that note, allow me to be explicit:

The Equifax settlement is an objectively bad deal.

It is not fair.

It is not adequate.

It is not reasonable.

As filing agent and custodian for hundreds of thousands of US consumer class members, we believe the five percent fee we procure from filing such claims, is of lesser value than the loyalty and support of our customers, who deserve a service provider who refuses to profit at their expense.

We choose not to be complicit in the wholesale of human rights.

We choose transparent systems over institutionalized ambivalence.

We choose to eschew the needlessly complex, and unduly burdensome.

We choose to reinforce an underfunded court system suffering from increasing pressures on an outdated infrastructure.

We choose greater access for consumers to their powerful legal rights.

We choose increased independent access to justice.

And far this settlement is concerned?

We choose to object.

You can join us in doing so by clicking here.

Sincerely,

Reuben Metcalfe

Founder and CEO, Class Action, Inc.

Addenda:

For avoidance of doubt - whilst we believe objecting is the better option - we can and will file claims for those among our client community who choose to do so for this particular settlement. We’re capitalists, so we don’t accept donations — but we’d love to file your claims for you for hundreds of (other, much better) settlements each year for our standard five percent fee if you’re interested in semi-regular amounts of free money on the internet. You can find us at www.classactioninc.com

FAQ: (Updated 11/11/19)

Q: How many objections are needed to ‘block’ this settlement?

A: Only one valid objection is needed — but higher volumes really make an impact. The highest volume of objections I’ve personally seen on a case was almost 30 — though I hear some cases have seen several hundred in the past. We accrued over two hundred objections on the first day of this post, so I suspect we may be setting a world record here.

Q: What data do you need from me to file an objection?

A: We’ll need your name, physical address, email, and the reasons why you’re objecting to the settlement. You’ll also be confirming you are indeed part of the settlement — if you’re unsure, you can find out here.

Q: I already filed a claim… Can I still file an objection?

A: You can — make sure to mention it in your objection.

Q: Will Clarence (or your company) sell, lease, or expose my data?

A: No. (Except for filing the objection to the court.)

Q: Do you make money from this? What’s the angle, here?

A: We don’t make money from filing objections (Indeed, it costs a reasonable amount to send the physical letters by certified mail) That said, if the settlement is renegotiated and our clients are paid higher amounts (Say for example, the originally proposed $125-$250 per person) then we’ll still make 5% in filing fees for those claims. If that happens, it’ll be the same for every class member, whether or not they‘re a customer. It’s a bit like a union (you know, one of the cool ones) advocating for workers rights — whether or not every worker is part of the union. You don’t have to be a customer if you don’t want to, but we promise to work really hard for you if you do.

Q: Is there anything else I can do to help make this thing happen?

A: Yes! TELL EVERYONE.

Reuben Metcalfe

Written by

Serial upstart. NZ <> SF

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