The firm overseeing the federal government’s $900 million settlement deal with service members who were victims of sexual misconduct in uniform is admitting more privacy breaches, despite repeated promises to have fixed the problem.
Epiq Class Action Services Canada has confirmed the additional errors after a third veteran came forward to The Canadian Press to report receiving an email containing the personal details of another claimant earlier this month.
The veteran, who asked not to be identified as she still works for the federal government, said the information was contained in an attachment as she fought Epiq after the company sent her paycheck at the wrong address.
The Federal Court appointed Epiq to administer the settlement process after the government reached a settlement in November 2019 with plaintiffs in three overlapping class action lawsuits relating to sexual misconduct in the military.
“I feel betrayed and worried that my personal information has been sent to other members,” the veteran said. “I’ve submitted over 180 pages of documents and I’m afraid someone has my information. It’s victimization all over the place.”
Epiq previously said the inadvertently released information did not include testimonials and other such materials, only randomly generated names, contact details and claim numbers.
He has nonetheless apologized for the errors since the first was reported in March and has repeatedly promised he will take appropriate disciplinary and procedural action to ensure more claimants are not affected.
The leaks also prompted a panel of plaintiffs, attorneys and government officials overseeing the settlement to order an independent audit of Epiq’s claims process to head off further issues.
The company has since hired an external auditor to review and recommend changes to its procedures, Epiq Vice President Angela Hoidas said in an email.
“We sincerely regret these additional disclosures,” Hoidas said. “While unintentional human error has affected a small fraction of the claims we have successfully handled in this class, we believe any unintentional error is unacceptable and have already taken substantial steps to improve our policies and procedures.”
Nearly 20,000 people have requested compensation
Attorney Jonathan Ptak, who represents some of the veterans and serving military involved in the three government-settled lawsuits, said the audit has begun.
Yet neither Epiq’s promises to fix the problem nor the decision to order an audit prevented the latest breach, which, according to a statement on Epiq’s website, brings the total number of claimants to 109. private information has been compromised.
Although Epiq did not disclose the total number of actual incidents in which a breach occurred, Department of Defense spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said the company had reported 20 individual breaches since. February 8.
This includes 15 previously unreported incidents uncovered by the company during an internal review in late February.
“National Defense takes the issue of privacy very seriously,” Lamirande said in an email. “We have asked Epiq to investigate and take action to ensure this matter is contained, resolved and does not happen again.”
Nearly 20,000 people have sought compensation as part of the class action settlement.
Retired master corporal Amy Green and fellow veteran France Menard said they haven’t heard anything from the company, government or law firms involved in the settlement since they had received private information about other applicants from Epiq earlier this year.
“It’s disappointing, that’s for sure,” Ménard said. “They’re trying to shove everything under the rug.”
The veteran who recently received information from another claimant said she and others had issues with Epiq even before the privacy breaches, including incorrect information and settlement payments sent to wrong addresses.
The information sent to Menard and Green consists of the names of individual plaintiffs along with their claim numbers, which can be used to submit documents through a secure link on the class action website.
Hoidas said these documents would then be reviewed by Epiq and the individual files would not be accessible. Menard and Green say they are unhappy with Epiq’s response, especially given the sensitive nature of the claims and the settlement agreement.
While the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said in March it was reviewing the matter after receiving a privacy breach report from Epiq, spokesperson Vito Pilieci said it is not There was no update from the watchdog’s investigation.