Disturbing news from from Seattle entrepreneur Mark Maunder, CEO of Feedjit.com and founder of WorkZoo (bought by Jobster in 2005). Maunder's friend and fellow West Coast entrepreneur Jason Goldberg (since relocated to NYC) has had the bank account of his new business, Fabulis.com, frozen by Citibank Corp. over what it called objectionable content on the company blog, according to, um, the company blog.
Goldberg is no neophyte courting controversy for publicity. According to Maunder, he worked in the Clinton-era White House, then for T-Mobile, got an MBA from Stanford and raised $50 million for the aforementioned Jobster, among other things. His new venture is “still finding (its) niche,” Maunder notes on his blog, but appears to be positioning itself as a travel portal for gay men.
“Their blog has had a ton of hilarious videos of guys describing why they’re 'Fabulis,' writes Maunder. “Zero porn, nothing even mildly suggestive or risque.”
“Just to be completely clear, we’re not talking about refusing a line of credit here. This is a cash account belonging to a funded company that was blocked.”
Why would a bank do this? Maunder has a couple of theories. One is that it is a form of “redlining,” a practice in which service companies deny or increase the cost of services to a targeted demographic. Maunder says it's a “very dangerous precedent” if a bank can deny a depositor access to its funds based on the bank's moral judment.
The latest update on the Fabulis blog says Citi has asked to terminate the account because the content is “not in compliance with Citibank's standard policies.” Hmm. Would they freeze Ashley Madison's account? Lavalife's? Who gets to draw the red line?
As Maunder notes, Citi received a $45-billion government bailout in 2008. One would think that a company spending public money would be required to adhere to some standard of responsibility to the public, wouldn't you? The U.S. Department of the Treasury, which administers the Troubled Asset Relief Program, might have a word or two to say, should a few e-mail messages of complaint come its way. The department can be reached at www.ustreas.gov.