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Credit lobbyists work to polish image

WASHINGTON  The Atlanta credit bureau Equifax ramped up its spending over the last three months to lobby the federal government and protect its image as it took fire for exposing the personal records of more than 145 million Americans.

Its two main competitors, meanwhile, shifted their resources in order to do the same.

New federal records released this week show Equifax increased its budget to lobby Congress and agency regulators by 12 percent between the second and the third quarters of this year. Roughly three weeks before the end of the third quarter, Equifax announced its system, which hosted millions of Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses, had been compromised.

It's unclear how much of the $280,000 the company spent went to repairing its image after company leadership learned of the massive hack on July 29 or the breach was made public on Sept. 7. The federal forms show only that overall spending increased by $30,000 from the prior quarter.

But the document includes notable details about what Equifax's lobbyists were focused on between July and the end of September. That includes a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulation curtailing the industry practice of forced arbitrations  binding customers to a mediation session with an arbiter and forcing them to waive their right to sue  and related legislation authored by Georgia U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk that would have curtailed class-action lawsuits against certain businesses.

Equifax was excoriated last month for including forced arbitration language in the terms of service of the free credit monitoring it was offering its customers after the breach. The company quickly dropped the provision amid the public outcry, while Loudermilk, a Republican, abandoned his legislation, which would have limited class-action payouts if companies were sued.

The firm also lobbied on legislation touching health care, immigration verification software and student loan repayment.

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