Citibank Shuts Down Gay Entrepreneur’s Bank Account Over Blog’s Content
Jason Goldberg is the CEO of a company called Fabulis, which is developing a website, iPhone app and social media application targeted at gay men. His company — which is at least his third start-up — is funded by investors including The Washington Post and the venture capitalist Allen Morgan, and they just launched their beta version this month. You would think he would be the kind of customer Citi would want — but Citi decided otherwise after a compliance officer reviewed his site and decided that a social networking application for gay men was “objectionable.”
Without notifying Goldberg or anyone at Fabulis, Citi shut down their bank accounts for objectionable content on Fabulis’ blog, though it refused to specify which content. After hours of phone calls, several articles and a threat to take their banking elsewhere, Citi finally called Goldberg to say that the three Citi employees who had decided Goldberg’s social networking site was objectionable were “wrong to have said what they said.” Note that the bank did not say they were wrong to have suspended his account without notification, or to have flagged his blog as objectionable because it talks about the gay-themed (but not pornographic) company that he is starting, but just that the three employees statements to him were wrong.
In fact, what they told Goldberg was likely right out of an employee handbook, if the phrasing is anything to go by: “Content was not in compliance with Citibank’s standard policies.”
Does Citibank make a regular habit of reading up on the content generated by all its business customers — and are its personal banking clients exempt? Do they accept business accounts from companies that produce or distribute pornography (which includes business giants such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon, as well as nearly every convenience store in the country)? Do they terminate the business accounts of freelance writers if they object to the content written by the customer — be it sexual or political? Is their compliance department monitoring the blog of each and every customer to make sure that storing your money with them is socially acceptable? It seems unlikely that Citi is going around reading all of its customer’s blogs or checking to make sure that every client meets with its employees’ standards of unobjectionable. Far more likely, Goldberg’s business was targeted because of its audience — gay men — and what some employees decide is objectionable.
But then maybe Citibank’s unspoken policy of judging the thoughts and sexual orientation of its customers is why Playboy Enterprises does its banking with Bank of America.