UPDATE 1-US House Democrats request probe into Target card breach

Mon Jan 13, 2014 3:39pm EST

By Mark Hosenball and Alina Selyukh

WASHINGTON Jan 13 (Reuters) - Democratic members of the Financial Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives have called on the panel to investigate the hacking of credit and debit card data belonging to millions of customers of retailer Target Corp.

The request piggybacks on a similar move by Senate Democrats on Friday as lawmakers respond to the massive breach at Target, the No. 3 U.S. retailer, during the holiday shopping season, which resulted in the theft of about 40 million credit and debit card records and 70 million other records containing customer information.

In a letter to Jeb Hensarling, the committee's Republican chairman, 17 committee Democrats, led by ranking member Maxine Waters, asked for a "full Financial Services Committee hearing."

It was unclear whether the committee's Republican majority would respond to the request.

The letter said a hearing should review current consumer protection laws and determine what could be done to ensure the future security of consumers' card information.

"It is incumbent upon our Committee to explore whether industry data protection standards are appropriate, and examine whether heightened regulatory standards are needed to more effectively protect consumers," the Democrats wrote.

After the request from Senate Democrats last week, Senate Banking Committee leaders have confirmed they plan to hold a hearing on data security issues in late January.

Senate Commerce committee chairman Jay Rockefeller is also facing calls for a hearing.

Although the hearings would allow for an airing of grievances and potentially bring Target officials to Washington for a grilling about how the case has been handled, they would not necessarily result in taking any kind of action or in legislation.

A bill by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy remains the only data security bill on tap for now.

One of the co-signers, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, told Reuters on Friday that he "will be talking to my colleagues about measures that may complement the Leahy bill."

The National Association of Federal Credit Unions on Monday sent letters to Congressional leaders, demanding action on data security.

The Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and state attorneys general would potentially look into Target's actions in this situation.

The FTC does not confirm or deny the existence of ongoing investigations and would only get involved if Target is shown to have failed to protect its customers' data.

Target has said it is working in partnership with the Secret Service, the lead agency involved in the data breach case, and the Department of Justice but did not comment on any FTC involvement.

In late trading on the New York Stock Exchange Target shares were down 1.58 percent at $61.60, outpacing the overall market decline.

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