"I think honestly they kept waiting for me to do something that was going to get me kicked out."
Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
As you may have heard, Equifax—a consumer credit reporting agency—was hacked last month, exposing nearly half of the US population's personal information. Now, the company's former CEO is on Capitol Hill, making the rounds to different congressional committees to testify about exactly what went wrong, and to try to find a way to reckon with the unprecedented breach.
Enter Monopoly Man.
On Wednesday, Amanda Werner strolled into the Capitol building, sat down behind a row of Equifax execs and representatives at a hearing with the Senate Banking Committee, and twirled their large, bushy white mustache. Wearing full Monopoly Man regalia, complete with a black tuxedo, top hat, and monocle, the activist hammed it up for the cameras—effectively stealing the show as the game's Rich Uncle Pennybags.
Werner, a consumer protection advocate for Public Citizen and Americans for Financial Reform, planned the stunt to raise awareness about forced arbitration clauses and their affects on consumers—and it quickly went viral. The Monopoly Man made it onto livestreams of the Equifax hearing throughout the day, showing Pennybags adjusting the stash, raising a monocle, and counting stacks of fake cash behind former CEO Richard Smith.
While many viewers got a kick out of the whole thing, for Werner, the stunt was about more than just getting a laugh.
"Equifax and Wells Fargo are using these arbitration clauses as a way to get out of jail free, and deny consumers justice," they told VICE. "The added fact that the Equifax CEO was just awarded a $7.5 million contract with the IRS made Rich Uncle Pennybags all the more relevant."
Werner and their activist colleagues decided they would launch a campaign on Capitol Hill this week during the Equifax hearings to raise more awareness about a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule that some congressional reps are trying to do away with. They started by handing out "get out of jail free cards" symbolizing how forced arbitration lets banks get away with wrongdoing, then decided to dress Werner up like the Monopoly Man himself to attend hearings in Pennybags's best. Werner wound up two rows back from the action, surrounded by Equifax execs and representatives who weren't all that thrilled about the stunt.
"I was getting a lot of dirty looks, and folks were very uncomfortable with the fact that I was in the room," Werner told VICE. "I think honestly they kept waiting for me to do something that was going to get me kicked out, but luckily I did my homework, I knew what I was allowed to do and not do."
Werner said they were blown away by how positively folks reacted to their getup, and—though they weren't planning on it—the Monopoly Man might show up at Thursday's hearing, along with a few protests in the future.
"Ironically, today Rich Uncle Pennybags really represented the majority of Americans who were, in fact, affected by the Equifax breach," Werner told VICE. "My personal information was hacked in that breach. And so I'm glad that by kind of mocking the out-of-touch CEOs that have been testifying to congress, we were actually channeling the voice of the people who want to see real justice done here."
Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.