Wall Street regulators will investigate whether Apple’s credit card is sexist

Technical error
Technical error
Image: AP Photo/Tony Avelar
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The New York Department of Financial Services (NY DFS) is investigating Goldman Sachs after users complained that the Apple Card’s algorithm discriminates against women in determining credit limits, Bloomberg reported on Nov. 10.

A tweet from tech entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson claiming that his wife received a much smaller credit limit than he did despite their equal financial status went viral earlier this week, setting off a controversy and leading to news of the probe over the weekend. (Apple Card is a joint enterprise between Apple, Mastercard, and Goldman Sachs.)

Hansson shared some information about his wife, who he said has a higher credit score than he does and is a US citizen while he is a green-card holder. He said they file jointly for their taxes and live in a state that follows community-property law, meaning that all assets acquired during their marriage are jointly and equally owned.

Several Twitter users shared similar experiences with the Apple Card on Twitter, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who said that he was given a credit limit ten times superior to that of his wife’s.

“Please know that Goldman Sachs will never consider sex/gender or any other prohibited bases when making credit decisions,” the bank said on Twitter. A spokesman for the bank told Bloomberg, “Our credit decisions are based on a customer’s creditworthiness and not on factors like gender, race, age, sexual orientation or any other basis prohibited by law.”

When reached for comment, Apple redirected Quartz to a representative from Goldman Sachs who said in an email that applications for Apple Cards are “evaluated independently,” based on factors such as income and creditworthiness, and that “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 based on factors like gender,” they said.

But Hansson and others pointed out that, while institutions may have anti-discrimination policies, algorithms can discriminate nonetheless. Just last month, NY DFS announced it would look into whether the algorithm of healthcare giant UnitedHealth Group favors white patients over black patients.

Apple Card launched in August, and Goldman Sachs’ CEO David Solomon recently called it “the most successful credit card launch ever.”

This story was updated with comment from Goldman Sachs.