A Credit Bureau Faces a Decision of Whether to Revise a System
Annabelle and Arvin Dorland made an offer on a three-bedroom house in Grande Pointe, New Hampshire. The sellers accepted the offer, and every- thing seemed to be going well. The home was their dream house, with all the features they ever wanted.
Jenny Cartier works for First Fiduciary Trust, the bank through which the Dorlands applied for their mortgage. With the Dorlands’ permission, Jenny asked for a credit report from Canyon Credit Company. Canyon is one of three major nationwide credit bureaus.
After an uneventful but anxious three days, the Dorlands received a phone call from Jenny at the bank. She said that the credit report from Canyon showed that the Dorlands had an outstanding lien on a fishing boat in Happy Jack, Louisiana. For that reason, the bank couldn’t approve their mortgage application. Arvin was incensed. He told Jenny that there had to be a mistake—that neither he nor Annabelle had ever even visited Louisiana, much less bought a boat there.
Jenny replied that if the Dorlands wanted their dream house and a First Fiduciary mortgage, they’d better get the problem cleared up fast. Another couple wanted to make an offer on the house, and the seller wouldn’t wait more than 48 hours. Jenny gave Arvin the name and phone number of Louise Patella, her contact at Canyon Credit.
U.S. law allows anyone to get the details of his or her credit report and suggest corrections. Arvin immediately contacted Louise. She researched the problem and discovered another Arvin Dorland, a man from Magnolia, Louisiana. Louise realized that the company had two different Arvin Dorlands on file—the Arvin in New Hampshire was in his mid-30s, while the Arvin in Louisiana was 72. By the time Louise corrected the database and issued a new report to First Fiduciary, the Dorlands’ dream house had been sold to someone else.
Arvin and Annabelle’s concern is that the bank will always associate the Dorlands with “that problem with the boat in Louisiana.” Also, they worry that the other two credit companies the bank uses could distribute the erroneous information.
Louise’s husband, Peter, also works at Canyon Credit. Peter is the di- rector of systems analysis and design, and he and Louise have often dis- cussed the increasing frequency of complaints concerning incorrect credit reports. After hearing about the Dorlands’ problem, he approached the chief information officer (CIO) of Canyon Credit to suggest a change in the database. Peter argued that the simple coding scheme used to identify a record for retrieval worked fine when the database was small. But now that the database system was large, it needed to be modified so all records
could be more easily and correctly accessed. Such a change would allow growth to one billion records and eliminate the mistaken-identity prob- lem.
The CIO directed Peter to do a full cost-benefit analysis of the matter. Peter discovered that to convert to using unique numeric identifiers would cost over $720,000 and save the company $90,000 per year. Some savings would result from the elimination of claims processing where clients were misidentified. Even larger savings could be realized from reductions in court settlements to those adversely affected by the system’s errors. Peter concluded that the gain in reputation and increased customer satisfaction would be enough to justify the change. The CIO, on the other hand, con- sidered the errors in the database a small problem. Based on the high ini- tial cost and the long payback period shown by the cost-benefit analysis, he was against the change. The dispute was reported to the Information Systems Steering Committee for resolution.
What were some early warning signs that signaled things were not going well with the CityTime project?
What steps should city managers and SAIC have taken at an early stage of the project to identify and prevent fraud?
Sources: “CityTime,” New York Times, March 14, 2012,
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