It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that Equifax Inc (NYSE:EFX) is in a world of hurt. A few weeks ago, the consumer credit reporting agency disclosed that massive amounts of personal data were compromised. Not only that, management first noticed the Equifax breach on July 29. This gave the appearance that the now-beleaguered company was attempting damage control prior to its disclosure.
Naturally, not a single person alive felt any sympathy towards the credit agency.
According to the statement, 143 million people had their personal information stolen, which included critical data such as social security numbers and birth dates. Most of those impacted were U.S. citizens and residents, although U.K. and Canadian customers may have also been compromised.
That other people were in the same boat was little comfort to this horrendous Equifax breach. As a direct result, EFX stock dropped approximately 14% on the disclosure, and subsequent trading was overwhelmingly negative. At time of writing, EFX shares hemorrhaged nearly 35% in the markets. I am almost certain that it will continue to fall in the nearer-term.
Equifax Breach is Unforgivable…For Now
Obviously, outraged Americans have their pitchforks out. InvestorPlace feature writer James Brumley notes the painful irony: Families take great care to protect their personal data to avoid damaging their credit, yet the Equifax breach ruined everything.
I’d also like to point out an age-old aphorism: Who’s watching the watchers?
The Equifax breach is the blunder of all blunders, in terms of the problem’s scale, the response rate — essentially everything. It’s no surprise that Brumley is urging people to strongly consider the lasting damage to EFX stock. This disaster is not something that the embattled credit agency can walk away from.
According to Brumley, consumers who have grown accustomed to corporate malfeasance or incompetence are “losing their will to forgive and forget though, and unlike in the past, they won’t ‘get over it.'”
Further, he writes: “As evidence of this idea, just look at the stumble Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc (NYSE:CMG) suffered in late 2015, when it was pegged as the source of an E. coli outbreak that infected 52 people. That wasn’t the first, second or even the third time Chipotle had been implicated in widespread food poisoning cases. It was the first time, however, consumers didn’t forgive and forget.”
EFX stock will Rally Because We’re Too Nice!
I respect anyone who doubts the ability for EFX stock to stage a comeback. Out of all the major cyber crimes we’ve endured, the Equifax breach is probably the worst. If social security numbers for over 100 million Americans were compromised, the breach snowballs into a lifetime of potential problems.
As terrible and as cynical as this may sound, I doubt the modern American’s ability to stay perpetually angry. When it comes to “consumer forgiveness,” this is an area that may still be a tailwind for EFX stock.
Home Depot (NYSE:HD) suffered a cybersecurity leak back in 2014, which resulted in a hefty lawsuit. People continued to shop at Home Depot, however, and HD stock is up 18% year-to-date.
The reality is that cyber crime is an unfortunate and unavoidable side effect of a digitized society. Furthermore, the most populous and the most tech-savvy states recognize that there’s nothing that can be done about it. While I’m not excusing the Equifax breach in any way, we’ve grown accustomed to this state of affairs. Deep down, I think we all knew that something like this was bound to happen.
Certainly, the magnitude of the Equifax breach is unprecedented. But are we going to get mad about something that happens every year? Look, United Continental Holdings Inc (NYSE:UAL) beat a passenger unconscious. Jack in the Box Inc (NASDAQ:JACK) killed people. So too did General Motors Company (NYSE:GM). They all found ways to come back.
In other words, there’s nothing like coupons and commercials to sway American fury.
You Mad, Bro?
I’m not here to suggest that you should buy EFX stock at this juncture. At the very least, I foresee several weeks of ugly sessions. The Equifax breach will generate ripple effects that will impact cybersecurity for years, if not decades, to come.
But eventually, the American people will get over it, and that day may come sooner than expected. The idea of boycotting United proliferated throughout the internet. That sentiment lasted for two or three weeks, and then it was back to business as usual. Customers will avoid Chipotle for yet another food scare. But boy do those burritos look appetizing, especially when they’re offering a “BOGO” sale.
If I may be extremely blunt, I think we’re too lazy to get angry about the Equifax breach. We’ll yell our frustration, especially when the inevitable identity theft occurs. Many of us will sue the snot out of EFX. However, we’re not going to hold a grudge forever — that’s just plain un-American.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.