Steve Mnuchin, former Goldman Sachs partner and CEO of mortgage lender OneWest, was confirmed to be the next Treasury Secretary on Monday night.
The confirmation came despite the fact that Mnuchin appears to have lied to the Senate about practices at OneWest, and despite evidence that the bank broke foreclosure laws and anti-discrimination laws under his leadership.
The Senate vote was nearly along party lines, with all Republicans voting in favor plus Democrat Joe Manchin (WV), and all the rest of the Democrats plus two independents voting against.
After his Senate hearing, Mnuchin was asked directly about whether OneWest robo-signed foreclosure documents, or had officials rapidly sign off on them without adequately reviewing or verifying them as required by law, thus potentially speeding up the foreclosure process. In his written response, he said, “OneWest Bank did not ‘robo-sign’ documents.”
Yet court documents in California, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas all alleged that under his tenure, paperwork was sloppily robo-signed. The bank was even banned from foreclosing on houses in New Jersey for a year, along with five others, over the practice.
Voices inside the bank also admitted as much. OneWest’s vice president for bankruptcy and foreclosure, Erica Johnson-Seck, said in a deposition that she had rapidly signed 750 documents a week, often spending just 30 seconds on them, without properly looking everything over.
And after the Office of Thrift Supervision issued a consent order for OneWest that said OneWest filed documents that its officials said had been reviewed when they hadn’t, the bank conducted its own review and found that 5.6 percent of its borrowers were due remediation for improper practices, including paperwork errors.
Evidence also emerged while Mnuchin was being considered for the Treasury Secretary role that his bank broke foreclosure laws in other ways. In a memo from the California Attorney General’s office leaked to The Intercept, investigators found that the bank illegally backdated foreclosure documents in order to speed the process up and made bids at foreclosure auctions that it wasn’t authorized to make. In one batch of documents that investigators looked at, 99.56 percent were backdated.
The bank has also been accused of breaking other laws during Mnuchin’s tenure. A recent complaint filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development by the California Reinvestment Coalition accuses it of having engaged in redlining in 2012 and 2013. According to the lawsuit, the bank issued far fewer loans to black and Latino borrowers — it says that none of the home loans made in Los Angeles in those years went to black people, while 0.1 percent went to Latino ones. It also alleges that it takes better care of foreclosed homes in white neighborhoods than those in communities of color and there are few to no branches in black and Latino neighborhoods.
As Treasury Secretary, Mnuchin will now play a key role in President Trump’s vow to “dismantle” bank reforms put in place after the mortgage crisis and subsequent recession, among other issues such as taxes and trade. And despite Trump’s attacks on banks during the campaign, Mnuchin is one of a number of people from Wall Street to join his team.