Economic data and research firm Argus Information and Advisory Services agreed to pay $37 million to settle charges from the Department of Justice (DOJ) alleging misuse of data obtained through federal regulatory contracts.

Argus was tasked with validating, aggregating, storage, retrieval, and reporting services for anonymized credit card data that regulatory agencies directed banks to provide but broke its contract by misusing the data to create proxy data it incorporated into products and services sold to commercial customers, the DOJ said in a press release Tuesday.

Argus will pay $13.5 million in restitution to the United States under the False Claims Act, plus interest, according to its settlement agreement. The company settled without admitting or denying liability but did deny it knowingly took part in the alleged misconduct.

The details: From 2009 through 2020, Argus executed contracts with government agencies, including the Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), to provide anonymized credit card data for banks, holding companies, and depository institutions.

Argus was restricted from using, disclosing, or distributing data collected from banks for purposes other than the performance of the work under the government contracts.

Argus failed to disclose its improper access, use, and retention of credit card data and the extent to which it relied on synthetic data for commercial clients, the DOJ alleged. The data did not include personally identifiable information.

The settlement was a coordinated effort by the DOJ Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, Fraud Section; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia; the Treasury’s Office of Inspector General; the Office of the Inspector General for the Federal Reserve Board, and the CFPB.

Company response: In April 2022, TransUnion acquired Argus from Verisk Analytics. Since the acquisition, TransUnion has been made whole by Verisk, a TransUnion spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“This previously-disclosed matter pertains to Argus’s use of certain data collected under certain government contracts—conduct that occurred before TransUnion’s acquisition,” the statement read. “We made the acquisition with knowledge of this matter, and since then have brought Argus under the rigorous data governance standards that make TransUnion a leader in this space.”