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Elizabeth Warren bashes Goldman Sachs after claims of Apple Card bias

Apple Card accused of gender discrimination
Apple Card accused of gender discrimination in its algorithm 03:26

Goldman Sachs's offer to review gender-discrimination claims related to the Apple Card is drawing fire from U.S. senators including presidential contender Elizabeth Warren.

The investment bank faces scrutiny after allegations that the Apple Card unfairly penalizes women. Several husbands — including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak — have complained that their wives were offered dramatically lower lines of credit than they were.  

The bank said this week that people who feel they may have been subjected to gender bias in getting an Apple Card can request that Goldman reconsider its credit determination, while claiming that gender did not play a role in its decisions. "We hear you," declared Carey Halio, CEO of Goldman Sachs Bank USA, in a post late Monday on Twitter. 

Goldman's response did not go over well with Warren, who helped set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and is a frequent critic of Wall Street banks. 

"So 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,'" The Massachusetts Democrat told Bloomberg News from Concord, New Hampshire. "Sorry guys, that's not how it works."

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

The onus should be on Goldman to explain how its algorithm works, and if that's not feasible, "they need to pull it down," she added.

The controversy also drew the attention of Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, who said on social media that intended to look into matter. 

"I'm investigating whether these allegations are true. If they are, I expect Apple and Goldman Sachs to do everything in their power to put an end to discrimination," Wyden tweeted on Wednesday. 

One factor underlying the issue is that the Apple Card does not allow households to share accounts, meaning members of the same family could get substantially differing credit limits. On Wednesday, Goldman said it would introduce the option, according to Bloomberg.

In an emailed response, a bank spokesperson reiterated Goldman's previous position and endorsed a public airing. 

"Goldman Sachs has not and will never make decisions based on factors like gender, race, age, sexual orientation or any other legally prohibited factors when determining credit worthiness. There is no 'black box.' " teh statement said. "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. We welcome a discussion of this topic with policymakers and regulators."

Representatives for Warren did not immediately return requests for comment.

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