The nation's top credit card companies were summoned to a hearing last March by Representative Bennie Thompson, Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, to answer some questions regarding their security policies. Now, Thompson is said to be contemplating on creating legislation that would compel credit issuers to institute tighter security measures. Industry analysts commented that such reforms would cost card issuers millions of dollars.
The hearing was prompted by a recent hacking case that happened in Heartland Payment Systems, where identity thieves were able to infiltrate the company's database system and get access to millions of credit card information.
Some legislators, however, were not impressed with the perceived "nobility" of the said hearing. They said that it was just a clever smokescreen to enable Thompson to extort money from credit card companies.
With rumours spreading about an alleged "extortion" motive, the ethics committee of the House set off an investigation. Later on they found out that after the said hearing, credit card companies gave Thompson considerable sums of money. Also, Thompson as of the moment has not yet filled any new legislation regarding credit card security.
Some insiders said that one compelling story that added drama to this whole event was the case of a committee staff that was given her walking papers when she reported some inappropriate directives of a lobbyist to some committee employees. They said it had to do with money being asked from credit card companies.
Thompson, in an interview explained that the intent of the meeting was purely for legislative purposes. The scale of this recent fraud that happened in Heartland Payment Systems necessitated intervention from both the private and public sector. He also denied allegations that it was just a ploy so that he could solicit money from credit card companies. According to him, the intent of the hearing was to determine the need to urgently draft appropriate legislative bills.
When asked about the case of a committee staff that was fired because she objected to extortion requests from a lobbyist, he said that he had no knowledge of this matter.
Members of the ethics committee, however, said that it would be difficult to prove if indeed Thompson received money from credit card issuers in exchange for some favours. Even if it is a gross violation of House ethics if a legislator holds a hearing to extort money from corporations, chances of proving that such a case transpired is quite remote, according to some congressmen.
Visa, MasterCard and American Express representatives refused to comment if they indeed gave political contributions to Thompson.