When then-GOP nominee Donald Trump named his campaign’s economic advisers in August, the group included six white men named Steve. Now that Trump has been elected president, one of those Steves may lead the U.S. Treasury.
According to reports, Trump is likely to tap former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin to lead the department. The announcement could be made in the coming days.
Throughout his campaign, Trump promised to “drain the swamp” and to go hard on Wall Street. But Mnuchin — who spent decades working for one of the country’s biggest banks, oversaw fraudulent foreclosures, and profited off major bankruptcies and Ponzi schemes — is far from a populist.
Here are some things you should know about the man who may be tasked with overseeing the country’s financial sector:
His bank has been accused of discrimination
OneWest Bank, a mortgage lender that Mnuchin built and then sold last year, has been accused of discriminating against black and Latino home buyers by denying them mortgages.
According to a complaint filed by two California housing advocacy groups last week, OneWest Bank also intentionally kept branches out of minority communities. Though the lawsuit doesn’t name Mnuchin directly, it targets CIT Group, which purchased OneWest Bank last year. Mnuchin is currently on the board of CIT Group and owns $100 million in company stock.
“The bank has no significant branch presence in communities of color,” Kevin Stein, deputy director of housing organization California Reinvestment Coalition, said in a statement. “Its home loans to borrowers and communities of color are low in absolute terms, low compared to its peer banks, and low when compared to what one would expect.” Mnuchin has declined to comment.
His company has been called a “foreclosure machine”
Mnuchin launched OneWest Bank, his mortgage lender, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. While he was able to make a profit by buying up parts of other failed banks, the company was one of the worst offenders among banks that were capitalizing on struggling home buyers.
Stein, who runs a California housing nonprofit, called OneWest Bank a “foreclosure machine.”
According to a May profile of Mnuchin in The New Republic, OneWest stood out among all the institutions contributing to the national foreclosure crisis. “It routinely jumped to foreclosure rather than pursue options to keep borrowers in their homes; used fabricated and ‘robo-signed’ documents to secure the evictions; and had a particular talent for dispossessing the homes of senior citizens and people of color,” reporter David Dayen wrote.
In 2011, almost 100 people, led by a woman whose home was foreclosed on by OneWest Bank, protested in front of Mnuchin’s California home. The group set up a mattress, nightstand, and lamp to signify homeowner Rose Gudiel’s fears of sleeping on the streets if she lost her house.
He profited off Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme
Mnuchin and his family were able to pocket roughly $3.2 million from his mother’s account with convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff. He and his brother were able to keep the money because it was taken out of the Ponzi scheme in time.
In 2010, the Mnuchin brothers were both sued by a trustee who, according to Bloomberg, was “looking to seeking to recoup Madoff investors’ losses from customers who’d withdrawn more money from his firm than they put in.” But the lawsuits were dropped because of time restrictions.
While thousands of people and businesses were decimated by Madoff’s scam, Mnuchin was able to emerge as one of a few “net winners.”
He quietly exited a Hollywood production company right before it filed for bankruptcy
After 17 years at Goldman Sachs, Mnuchin moved to California where he tried his hand at film producing, helping to finance blockbusters like “Avatar” and “Suicide Squad.”
During that phase of his career, Mnuchin briefly served as co-chairman of movie production company Relativity Media. But he conveniently left the company shortly before it filed for bankruptcy.
According to Variety, OneWest Bank of Pasadena (Mnuchin’s former bank) drained almost $50 million from Relativity Media just weeks before it filed for bankruptcy in July of last year. Just months earlier, Mnuchin resigned from his board post at the production company, claiming a conflict of interest.
Creditors are owed hundreds of millions of dollars from the movie studio, but are unlikely to get their money back because the company had very little cash on hand when it went insolvent.