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TJX finds self at bottom of 300-bank pig pile

'Negligent misrepresentation' in data handling has its costs

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Associations representing almost 300 Northeastern banks in the US say they are suing TJX Companies to recover tens of millions of dollars in damages resulting from a data breach that may have exposed more than 45m credit and debit card numbers to thieves. Additional organizations from all over the country are likely to join the suit, which will be heard in federal court in Boston and seeks class action status.

Plaintiffs in the case include the Massachusetts Bankers Associated, the Connecticut Bankers Association and the Main Association of Community Banks. They allege in a press release that the owner of retail outlets including TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods is responsible for "dramatic costs" to banks that have been forced to reissue new cards and cover fraudulent purchases drawn on compromised accounts.

"If we're successful against TJX, the nation's major retailers will finally wake up to the fact that not protecting consumer data is an unfair trade practice and that investment in data management systems to protect consumers and shield consumers against fraud and identity theft is required," the president and CEO for one of the plaintiffs said.

TJX first disclosed the breach in January but provided painfully few details. Last month it provided an update that said it lost about 45.6m card numbers to unknown thieves who intruded on the retailing giant's networks over a span of 17 months. Personal information, often including social security numbers, for at least 451,000 individuals was also lifted.

Fraud resulting from the TJX breach has been reported from all over the world, and the plaintiffs say banks to this day continue to receive lists of cards stolen through the heist. In March, authorities in Florida detained at least six individuals suspected of using pilfered account numbers to buy gift cards at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores. ®

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