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In Wake Of Fabulis Debacle, Citibank Makes Changes To Internet Business Policy

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Last week, Citibank found itself in the eye of an Internet storm after it was revealed that the bank had blocked the business account of Web startup fabulis over (non-existing) ‘objectionable content’ on the company’s blog.

The topic was all the more sensitive because fabulis operates a social network / lifestyle website targeting gay men.

A Citi representative was quick to apologize to fabulis founder Jason Goldberg (see updates to our previous story), but has now taken its official response a step further by reviewing and effectively making changes to its policies around Internet business account customers.

Here’s the note, straight from Citibank’s online discussion forum (emphasis ours):

Citibank Message About Internet Business Accounts

At Citibank, we have learned a great deal from recent customer issues related to Internet business accounts. Mistakes were made in some instances, in which we apologized and corrected the problem. These issues made it clear to us that the language in our branch procedures was not specific enough and left too much room for interpretation from one account to the next.

We recognized that we needed clearer and less subjective guidelines with regard to opening Internet business accounts. And there were clearly gaps in training and communications around these specific branch procedures. Based on all these learnings, we’ve taken action and this week we updated and clarified our procedures for opening all Internet business accounts.

Banks are required by law to conduct due diligence and understand the nature of business accounts. For Internet business accounts, we have made it clearer to our bankers what the due diligence process entails. For example, we will continue to reserve the right to decline or suspend an account if we find illegal or discriminatory content, or if the site involves gambling or pornography. Beyond that specific due diligence, however, we do not monitor or evaluate our customers’ web content.

We are providing additional training in this area to ensure the procedures are uniformly and correctly followed. Also, our bankers are now required to have additional consultation with senior level banking executives when questions arise about these accounts before making any final decisions. This will help to avoid misunderstanding and subjective decisions, and promote greater consistency throughout the process. And we remain committed to working with our customers to try to resolve any issues.

As a global organization, we also recognize the power and promise of diversity. In that spirit, we reiterate Citi’s commitment to serving customers, hiring talent and supporting a broad array of organizations that promote diversity. To learn more about our diversity efforts, please visit: http://www.citigroup.com/citi/citizen/diversity/index.htm.

These recent customer issues have been a useful learning experience for us. We again apologize for any misunderstandings that may have occurred. We are committed to improving every day and we’re working to better serve our customers.

I pinged Goldberg about the changes, which have also been communicated to him in an individual e-mail. He says he’s amazed that while the Obama administration can’t seem to get banks to change their ways, “we the people of social media” can. He adds:

How anyone at Citibank could have reviewed fabulis and classified it as “porn” is beyond us, and it speaks to how backwards and antiquated its policies were.

Amen to that.

Still, Citibank is being quite transparent about the whole ordeal and seems to be moving to make amends quickly.

What do you think about the whole situation?

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