WSJ says the Goldman-Apple deal is dead. Apple says not yet.

Apple is quietly disputing a headline by The Wall Street Journal that claims the tech giant has “pulled the plug” on its Goldman Sachs partnership which covers the Apple Card credit card and savings account. Instead, Apple says the two companies remain focused on providing “an incredible experience” for customers, in a statement provided to TechCrunch. However, the Journal reports that’s not the case — citing unnamed sources, it claims the tech giant has sent a proposal to Goldman to exit from their partnership in 12 to 15 months.

No such exit has been formally announced at this time, but there have been multiple reports detailing how the partnership had soured over the years, including a July 2023 article from The Information.

That report noted the problems Goldman faces with Apple Card, like how it misses traditional forms of credit card revenue, such as annual fees, late fees, and overseas transaction fees. Instead, it earns fees from loans issued to cardholders who finance their Apple products over monthly installments. The article also referenced some of the bad PR Apple Card received after a viral tweet indicated that some women with good credit were being given worse terms than their husbands. While regulators found no wrongdoing, the incident left a stain on Apple’s reputation.

Later, as Goldman shifted away from its consumer strategy, The Wall Street Journal reported that the bank began shopping its Apple partnership to American Express. JPMorgan Chase was also named as another potential partner. Today, WSJ points to other problems, as well, like Apple’s assistance that all cardholders are billed at the beginning of the month, which causes customer service headaches, and its push to get most applicants approved.

While Apple doesn’t specifically state that The WSJ is flat-out wrong, it issued a statement that leaves room for doubt as to the deal’s status:

“Apple and Goldman Sachs are focused on providing an incredible experience for our customers to help them lead healthier financial lives,” a company statement reads. “The award-winning Apple Card has seen a great reception from consumers, and we will continue to innovate and deliver the best tools and services for them,” Apple said.

The statement could be interpreted in multiple ways. In one reading, Apple is saying the deal is still on and nothing has changed until Apple announces it has. In another reading, Apple wants to simply sow doubt around any negotiations it may have underway in order to not cause its existing customers to worry that their Apple MasterCards will suddenly turn into Amex’s, for example.

Still, it’s worth pointing out that Apple would not go on record about The WSJ’s headline, the details in its report, or speculations around new partnerships beyond the provided statement. That also leaves room for doubt, as Apple is not being transparent about the specific points The WSJ is making.

Chatter about the Apple-Goldman deal’s potential end has continued to grow in recent months, despite the fact that Goldman announced a year ago that the deal was extended through 2029. While that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways for the companies to get out of the agreement, it does mean there are contractual obligations that would make doing so difficult for either party. As The Information had also reported, Goldman can’t simply offload the business without Apple’s approval. Plus, the report noted Apple also has a deal to run the Apple Card through Mastercard’s network until at least 2026. While Apple could partner with another bank, the report pegged the timeframe for unraveling the Goldman deal as around 18 months — which is in line with The WSJ’s new estimates. When there’s smoke…

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