A newly unearthed memo revealed Tuesday at The Intercept bolsters the case against former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin, the "foreclosure king" who is Donald Trump's choice to lead the U.S. Treasury Department.
The 2013 document, penned by top prosecutors in the California attorney general's office and obtained by The Intercept, suggests that when Mnuchin was CEO from 2009 to 2015, OneWest Bank "repeatedly broke California's foreclosure laws" and then hamstrung an investigation into its practices. From backdating foreclosure notices of default to making unlawful credit bids at foreclosure sales, investigators "uncovered evidence suggestive of widespread misconduct" by OneWest during Mnuchin's tenure.
Mnuchin "was already facing challenges in his upcoming Senate confirmation hearings on account of his bank's ruthless foreclosure practices, ranging from locking out one homeowner during a Minneapolis blizzard to foreclosing on another over a 27-cent payment shortfall," writes journalist David Dayen.
But "[t]he consistent violations of California foreclosure processes outlined in the memo would indicate that Mnuchin's bank didn't merely act callously, but did so with blatant disregard for the law," he continues.
What's more, Dayen's probe found that OneWest "also obstructed the investigation by ordering third parties to refuse to comply with state subpoenas." Despite prosecutors' recommendation, Attorney General Kamala Harris's office never prosecuted the case against OneWest.
Grassroots activist organization Rootstrikers said the revelations "paint a damning picture of Mnuchin's time as CEO" of OneWest—warranting a delay of his confirmation hearing until he:
- makes full and public disclosures about his role in obstructing investigations into wrongdoing by his companies,
- makes a full and public accounting of the settlements and lawsuits OneWest has been subject to for illegal behavior, and
- gives a full response to all questions submitted by Finance Committee members.
"The documents made public today bolster the already strong case that Mnuchin's bank was an egregious actor during the foreclosure crisis, flouting both the law and common decency in the rush to kick Americans out of their homes," said Kurt Walters, campaign director at Rootstrikers.
"Where there's smoke, there's fire, and the American people deserve a full explanation of these serious charges of fraud," added Paulina Gonzalez, executive director of the San Francisco-based California Reinvestment Coalition. "Mr. Mnuchin and OneWest Bank need to turn over all of the evidence they previously obstructed so that their banking regulators can conduct a thorough investigation into these serious charges prior to any hearings about Mr. Mnuchin serving as our next Treasury Secretary. If Mr. Mnuchin's bank wasn't engaged in illegal behavior, why did they try and obstruct the attorney general's staff?"
Dayen spoke to Democracy Now! on Wednesday about his investigation:
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Meanwhile, on Wednesday, national progressive advocacy group Allied Progress launched two six-figure network and cable television ad buys in Arizona and Nevada calling on Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to reject Mnuchin's nomination.
"Donald Trump promised he would hire the best to serve in his administration, but instead he's picked a former Goldman Sachs executive who made millions when his own bank foreclosed on the family homes of thousands of hard-working Americans," said Allied Progress executive director Karl Frisch.
"Arizona and Nevada were hit particularly hard by the foreclosure crisis that Steven Mnuchin and his Wall Street buddies helped to create—and profited from. Senators Flake and Heller have a simple choice: will they stand with Mnuchin and Goldman Sachs or with their constituents who were brutalized by Wall Street greed during the Great Recession?"
Watch the ad below:
Senate Democrats have also set up a website for OneWest foreclosure victims to share their stories of being impacted by Mnuchin.
Mnuchin's spokeswoman Tara Bradshaw said Tuesday that Mnuchin will not answer questions—several related to his time as head of OneWest—posed last month by Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee.