Occasionally lifting the characteristic monocle for a clearer view of the Senate Banking Committee’s hearing for the astounding Equifax data breach, Rich Uncle Pennybags — perhaps better known as the ‘Monopoly’ man from the classic board game — carried out an epic photo bomb to raise awareness of the dearth in consumer rights against the monolithic financial industry.

Complete with black top hat and impeccably-mustached, Pennybags observed the proceedings quietly from the gallery — occasionally peering through the single lens or blotting sweat from his brow with enormous paper money — as Equifax CEO Richard Smith testified to the Senate, taking full blame for an inexcusable and embarrassing data breach of the personal information on more than 145 million people.

Of course, given Wednesday’s appearance comes on the heels of nearly identical proceedings in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday, it wasn’t surprising the embattled Equifax head failed to notice the cartoon board game heckler a couple rows back.

Pennybags, in actuality, was Amanda Werner of Americans for Financial Reform and Public Citizen, who agreed to the fitting photobomb and publicity stunt to bring sharp attention to forced arbitration — described as Big Banks’ ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card, as it allows shirking of responsibility and accountability for swindling customers.

“Arbitration is a rigged game,” Pennyb—  … Werner told CNBC in a statement through email. “Bank lobbyists and their allies in Congress are trying to overturn the CFPB’s rule so they can continue to rip off consumers with impunity.”

Werner also distributed mock Monopoly ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards as part of the stunt.

On forced arbitration, Public Citizen writes,

“The Senate leadership is pushing to roll back the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s arbitration rule using the Congressional Review Act’s (CRA) expedited process and has until early November to act. The rule allows consumers to join together in class actions to challenge wrongdoing in court. Widespread wrongdoing and negligence at Wells Fargo and Equifax and their attempts to evade legal accountability using forced arbitration ‘rip-off’ clauses have transformed the issue from an obscure regulatory debate into a leading national story.

“Forced arbitration clauses buried in the fine print of take-it-or-leave-it contracts may be the single most important tool that predatory banks, payday lenders, credit card companies and other financial institutions have used to escape accountability for cheating and defrauding consumers. These clauses push disputes into secretive arbitration proceedings rigged to favor financial companies and conceal wrongdoing from regulatory authorities. The average consumer forced into arbitration ends up paying more than $7,700 to the bank or lender, according to the Economic Policy Institute.”

As for the Monopoly man’s appearance during Equifax testimony, CNBC offers insight:

“When it first announced the breach in September, Equifax offered a credit monitoring service that required consumers to accept arbitration to settle disputes, something it has since removed. Smith has said that the arbitration requirement was a mistake.”

Americans for Financial Reform explained in a post to Twitter the appearance of Werner as Pennybags was “to protest Equifax’s behavior in the wake of the breach, and to draw attention” to forced arbitration.

Rich Uncle Pennybags might be a familiar face around the Halls of Congress — Werner donned the costume and persona last Tuesday, as well, lurking outside the same hearing room during an update given by executives with Wells Fargo — which suffered its own scarlet lettering over multitudes of fake accounts and other chicanery leaving customers in the lurch.

That Big Banks and Big Credit rarely face stiffer punitive measures than subjectively minimal fines and crow-eating before an audience of politicians makes the Monopoly man stunt a brilliantly subtle jab at the American Teflon-coated banking elite — although some indication they’d sweated under the collar at the site of fat-cat Pennybags could have offered a reassuring sign of life.


Image: Flickr/torbakhopper.