On July 9, 2019, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office announced its intention to fine Marriott International £99,200,396 (approximately $124 million) for violating the General Data Protection Regulation, following a data breach first disclosed by Marriott in November 2018. The breach involved the personal data of approximately 339 million guests of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and likely took place in 2014 – before Starwoods was acquired by Marriott. According to the ICO, 30 million of the stolen guest records belonged to residents of the European Economic Area, including 7 million residents of the UK.
In its announcement of the proposed penalty, the ICO highlighted the importance of diligence to ensure compliance with the GDPR, and asserted that Marriott had failed to undertake sufficient due diligence when it acquired Starwoods in 2016. In announcing the proposed fine, UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham noted, “The GDPR makes it clear that organisations must be accountable for the personal data they hold. This can include carrying out proper due diligence when making a corporate acquisition, and putting in place proper accountability measures to assess not only what personal data has been acquired, but also how it is protected.”
In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about the potential penalty, Marriott indicated that it has been cooperating with the ICO throughout the investigation, and would contest the ICO’s findings. The company will have an opportunity to make representations to the ICO as to the proposed findings and penalty.