Finance

Warren blasts Goldman Sachs over its Apple card and 'discriminatory' algorithms

Key Points
  • Warren, who is running for president in the 2020 election, says Goldman's response to allegations of bias in its Apple Card is insufficient.
  • New York's Department of Financial Services is looking into Goldman to "ensure all consumers are treated equally regardless of sex."
  • "Let's just tell every woman in America, 'You might have been discriminated against, on an unknown algorithm, it's on you to telephone Goldman Sachs,'" Warren tells Bloomberg.
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) responds to a question during a forum held by gun safety organizations the Giffords group and March For Our Lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 2, 2019.
Steve Marcus | Reuters

Sen. Elizabeth Warren unloaded on Goldman Sachs and the bank's handling of claims that its Apple Card exhibits bias against women thanks to what she categorized as "discriminatory" algorithms.

Warren, who is running for president in the 2020 election, said that Goldman's response to the criticism is insufficient in an interview with Bloomberg News. Goldman, which oversees banking decision's on Apple's much-hyped card, has asked customers who believed they've been affected to double-check their credit limits.

"Let's just tell every woman in America, 'You might have been discriminated against, on an unknown algorithm, it's on you to telephone Goldman Sachs and tell them to straighten it out,'" Warren said in an interview with Bloomberg. "Sorry guys, that's not how it works."

The showy new credit card from Apple and Goldman first came under fire last week, 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.

The New York Department of Financial Services later launched an investigation into Goldman to determine whether the bank violated state law and to "ensure all consumers are treated equally regardless of sex."

For its part, Goldman has denied the allegations of bias and said on Monday that it will reassess credit limits for Apple Card users on a case-by-case basis for those who've received lower limits 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.

"There is no 'black box.' For credit decisions we make, we can identify which factors from an individual's credit bureau issued credit report or stated income contribute to the outcome," a Goldman Sachs spokesperson told CNBC. "We welcome a discussion of this topic with policymakers and regulators."

The allegations have sparked a broader conversation across Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Capitol Hill over whether banks discriminate by accident when they use advanced algorithms and models to determine creditworthiness and limits.

"We're all beginning to understand better that algorithms are only as good as the data that gets packed into them," Warren added to Bloomberg.

The Massachusetts Democrat has had a long career on the Senate Banking Committee, where she's long advocated for consumers and stricter regulations over lenders. Warren has made a crackdown on banks and other big business a keystone of her policy agenda.

"If a lot of discriminatory data gets packed in, in other words, if that's how the world works, and the algorithm is doing nothing but sucking out information about how the world works, then the discrimination is perpetuated," she told Bloomberg.

Click here to view the original Bloomberg News report.