Citibank - the third largest holding bank in the US - has apologized to a gay social networking website after its founder claimed the bank had blocked his account due to "objectionable content" on the site's blog.
Known as Fabulis, the site bills itself as "network that connects gay men with amazing experiences down the block and around the world." It has yet to officially launch, but it's currently populated by videos of gay men explaining why they're "fabulis."
On Wednesday, with a blog post entitled "Citibank is not so fabulis," company founder Jason Goldberg said that the bank had blocked his recently opened account after a review of the site.
Speaking with The Register, Richard Socarides - the chair of the board of advisers for the site - said that the company spoke to three different Citibank employees who said the account was blocked for "objectionable content".
"Mind you, fabulis is a serious business, backed by some serious players, and for the life of us we can’t find anything 'objectionable' on our blog besides some good humor, some business insights, and some touching coming out stories from some great and fabulis gay people," Goldberg wrote. "So, what gives? And wtf. When did Citibank start reviewing blogs to decide who can bank with them?"
A Citibank spokesman tells The Reg that the situation has "nothing to do" with the content of the Fabulis site. "Any suggestions that this was the case were incorrect," he says. But he also says that company reserves the right to not open an account or close it if there's illegal or discriminatory content on its website. "We're required by law to do our due diligence to understand the nature of a business that wants an account."
The bank has apologized to Goldberg, in both a personal email and in a statement shared with the press. "Citibank sincerely apologizes to Mr. Goldberg for this misunderstanding. This situation had nothing to do with the content of his web site and any comments by our staff to the contrary were incorrect; we are reviewing what happened," the statement reads.
"Mr. Goldberg is a valued customer and we appreciate his business. Also, Citi is strongly committed to diversity, including support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, and other organizations promoting diversity."
Citibank has reinstated the account, and it says that the problem was caused by a technical issues involving missing documentation.
"Whatever statements that were made by any Citi representative related to the content of your website were inappropriate and made in error," reads an email to Goldberg from a bank manager, also posted to the Fabulis blog.
Just last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that a Sillyunderwear.com - a company that sells, yes, silly underwear on the web - was denied a Citibank account due to concerns over its site content. The bank told the Journal: “While we don’t comment on our customers, we typically decline accounts associated with content that the general public may potentially find inappropriate or offensive.”
With a subsequent blog post, Goldberg rhetorically asked Citibank: "Was it the underwear?" - presumably a reference to a photo of some "fabulis" skivvies recently posted to his blog. ®