In a particularly dark week for America, one ray of hope shone bright, its monocle glinting bravely in the harsh media flash. Enter Rich Uncle Pennybags, the board game fat cat better known as the Monopoly man, who made a high-profile appearance at today's Senate hearing on the Equifax hack.
Seated just behind universally loathed former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, Mr. Monopoly thoughtfully listened on, adjusting his monocle every now and again, twirling his white mustache just so and mopping at his brow with hundred-dollar bills, as anyone might. Social media, desperately in need of a win, lost its damn mind.
— Shoshana Weissmann (@senatorshoshana) October 4, 2017
— TIME (@TIME) October 4, 2017
The Monopoly Man is still at it, almost two hours into the Equifax hearing pic.twitter.com/rRBdBxW7qv
— Haley Byrd (@byrdinator) October 4, 2017
TechCrunch spoke to the mysterious Monopoly man, now identified as Amanda Werner of advocacy group Public Citizen, about the cause behind the Senate appearance. (As the author I must disclose that Werner is in fact a friend and honestly this is the best thing I've ever seen.)
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) October 4, 2017
When asked how they managed to get such excellent seating for the stunt, Werner explained that an intern from their organization actually got in line for the open hearing at 7AM to secure the spot.
"I was sitting right next to a lot of the Equifax PR folks and executives like Richard Smith," Werner told TechCrunch. "I got a lot of dirty looks throughout the hearing." Still, Werner says that "We definitely got some silent support from some of the committee staff."
Because the stint as Mr. Monopoly isn't Werner's first rodeo, Werner didn't have any trouble making it through security.
"We’ve had folks in a shark costume to represent a loan shark," Werner elaborated. "The security people there generally do respect the right to free speech."
— Amanda Werner (@wamandajd) October 4, 2017
In perhaps the most hilarious moment among many, Werner actually tailed Smith after the hearing to deliver the ex-Equifax CEO fistfuls of money meant to represent the $7.25 million contract the company just secured with the IRS. "There were news cameras in front of him… [and] I was chasing behind him," said Werner, who likely correctly believes that the footage would make the evening news. If you witnessed this, please hit us with the GIF.
Werner hopes that everyone riding the tide of Equifax outrage will call their representatives to defend the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule that limits mandatory arbitration practices. This kind of arbitration is generally heavily weighted against the consumer, preventing individuals from bringing lawsuits against companies and instead "[pushing] disputes into secretive arbitration proceedings rigged to favor financial companies and conceal wrongdoing from regulatory authorities," as Public Citizen explains.
Forced arbitration came up after the Equifax hack when consumers noticed it in the company's terms of service, a controversy that Equifax sort of clarified in its sketchy Equifax-like way.
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) October 3, 2017
As Werner explained, forced arbitration has even broader major implications for consumers. When it comes to shady business or privacy practices, an individual lawsuit might function as "a canary in a coal mine," but if that lawsuit is forced into the shadows under forced arbitration it can take years for the public to find out about it, like in the case of the Wells Fargo fake account scandal. "It keeps consumers from telling their story,” Werner said. “Because those consumers were forced into secret arbitration, we didn’t find out about it for three years.“
All told, we were happy to speak with this rising internet star about consumer protections, though due to Werner's considerable policy savvy there was less hearty in-character chortling than we would have preferred.
Asked if Mr. Monopoly was affected by the Equifax data breach, Werner noted that he was unconcerned about identity theft in his financial future. "Monopoly man really just keeps his wealth in gold."