Tech

Goldman Sachs will reevaluate Apple Card credit limits after bias allegations

Key Points
  • Goldman Sachs denied allegations of gender bias and said it will reevaluate credit limits for Apple Card users on a case-by-case basis for customers who claim to be affected.
  • Some Apple Card applicants are discovering that they have a much lower credit limit than they expected based on their credit score.
  • Goldman said some applicants have "limited personal credit history."
Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces Apple Card during a launch event at Apple headquarters on Monday, March 25, 2019, in Cupertino, California.
Noah Berger | AFP | Getty Images

Goldman Sachs denied allegations of gender bias and said on Monday that it will reevaluate credit limits for Apple Card users on a case-by-case basis for customers who received lower credit lines than expected.

"We have not and never will make decisions based on factors like gender," Carey Halio, Goldman's retail bank CEO, said in a statement. "In fact, we do not know your gender or marital status during the Apple Card application process."

Halio said that customers unsatisfied with their line should contact the company.

"Based on additional information we may request, we will re-evaluate your credit line," the statement said.

The controversy surfaced on Friday, when tech entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson wrote a series of tweets complaining that he got a credit limit 20 times higher than his wife, despite the fact that the couple files tax returns jointly.

A Goldman spokesperson previously told CNBC that the issue was related to how the bank evaluates credit applications independently, which makes it possible for two family members to receive significantly different credit decisions. Goldman s looking into ways for family members to share a single Apple Card account, which would address the issue.

In the statement on Monday, Goldman said that the problem stemmed from some applicants having "limited personal credit history."

Affected users can contact Goldman Sachs through a chat in the iPhone Wallet app or at the company's customer service number. 

An algorithm problem

While Goldman said that it doesn't make underwriting decisions based on gender, Hansson said the opaque methodology behind the card's credit decisions amounts to sexism.

"My wife and I filed joint tax returns, live in a community-property state, and have been married for a long time," Hansson tweeted, along with a screenshot showing a $57 dollar spending limit. "Yet Apple's black box algorithm thinks I deserve 20x the credit limit she does."

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said it happened to his spouse, too.

The Apple Card is branded and marketed by Apple. Users sign up for the card and apply for credit inside the Wallet app on iPhones, but the credit component of the product is handled by Goldman, which is pushing into consumer banking.

The New York Department of Financial Services said on Monday that it was launching an investigation into Goldman's credit card practices. Halio said in the statement that the company reviewed its credit process with a "third party," which is Charles River Associates, according to a Goldman Sachs representative. 

An Apple representative didn't return requests for comment.

After Goldman released the statement, Hansson returned to Twitter to express his displeasure.

"You heard nothing," he wrote. "'I understand your concerns, but here's why they are actually wrong and we are actually right' is not listening. That's patronizing. Please just stop."

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