Goldman Sachs and Apple are in the crosshairs of the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) following a viral tweet that alleges gender discrimination over credit lines associated with the Apple Card.
Software developer David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of the popular Ruby on Rails framework, posted a tweet on November 7th noting that he received a 20x higher credit limit on his Apple Card than his wife, a problem blamed by customer service personnel with whom he spoke squarely on credit rating algorithms used to determine such factors. Hansson’s experience was corroborated by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who said he and his wife had a similar experience. Other Apple Card users have chimed in too – some report similar experiences, others say that they and their spouses have the same credit line and limits.
Hansson said that Apple Card customer service eventually matched his wife with the same limit, though they were unable to satisfactorily explain the disconnect beyond vaguely blaming it on the “black box” algorithm used to determine credit worthiness. Hansson responded:
So nobody understands THE ALGORITHM. Nobody has the power to examine or check THE ALGORITHM. Yet everyone we’ve talked to from both Apple and GS are SO SURE that THE ALGORITHM isn’t biased and discriminating in any way. That’s some grade-A management of cognitive dissonance.
— DHH (@dhh) November 8, 2019
Now the New York DFS is stepping in to investigate. In a tweet and later a post to Medium over the weekend, Linda A. Lacewell, superintendent of the NY DFS said they’ll be looking into the issue to determine if state anti-discrimination laws have been broken.
DFS regulates financial products and services offered in New York State. Financial service companies are responsible for ensuring the algorithms they use do not even unintentionally discriminate against protected groups. Our North Star is that the consumer comes first. We will work to investigate what may have gone wrong, and if the algorithm used by Apple Card did indeed promote unlawful discrimination we will take appropriate action.
Goldman Sachs, for its part, denied any wrongdoing in a statement posted on Twitter. It reads in part:
As with any other individual credit card, your application is evaluated independently. We look at an individual’s income and creditworthiness, which includes factors like personal credit scores, how much debt you have, and how that debt has been managed. Based on these factors, it is possible for two family members to receive significantly different credit decisions.
In all cases, we have not and will not make decisions of factors like gender.
Update (11/11/09): Goldman Sachs statement added.
Have you and your spouse received different treatment by the Apple Card? Have you ever seen this happen with other credit cards? Let us know in the comments.