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At Thursday's confirmation hearing, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) hammered Treasury nominee Steven Mnuchin on his record of foreclosures at OneWest Bank. (Screenshot)

'Foreclosure King' Mnuchin Put On Defensive at Senate Hearing

"Mnuchin didn't mention the name of a single victim in his remarks," journalist David Dayen reports. "He gave dubious statistics that fall apart upon scrutiny."

Deirdre Fulton

At Thursday's hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, U.S. Treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin was forced to defend his offshore holdings and his record at the bank dubbed a "foreclosure machine."

Mnuchin faced occasionally tough questioning from Democrats on the Finance Committee, including Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), and Claire McCaskill (Mo.), who drilled into his time running OneWest Bank, his offshore business ventures, and the conflicts of interest posed by President-elect Donald Trump's foreign debts.

Watch Wyden take on the tax havens:

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) also delved into the matter:

Meanwhile, McCaskill reminded Mnuchin that as head of the Treasury Department he would oversee the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)—"which investigates foreign investments into U.S. businesses for possible national security conflicts," as Business Insider explains—and in turn be tasked with evaluating the debt from President-elect Donald Trump's businesses held by foreign entities:

And both Brown and Casey dug into Mnuchin's record with OneWest, which foreclosed on tens of thousands of families after Mnuchin and his investors bought it.

Democrats not on the committee, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) weighed in as well.

But journalist and author David Dayen, writing Thursday afternoon at The Nation, said Democrats missed their opportunity to truly "expose Mnuchin as a predator."

"Democratic committee members pummeled him over the tax haven," Dayen wrote, referring to newly uncovered revelations that Mnuchin was director of investment funds incorporated in offshore havens like the Cayman Islands and Anguilla. But, Dayen continued, that line of questioning "got bogged down into an arcane discussion of hedge fund rules and tax law, when there were literally thousands of human stories, of people who lost everything they had at the hands of Steve Mnuchin's bank, waiting to be discussed."

One particularly impactful exchange was between Mnuchin and a Republican senator, Dean Heller of Nevada. Mnuchin opponents have targeted Heller's district with ads in recent weeks, recognizing him as a possible swing vote on this confirmation. Dayen reports:

Mnuchin didn't mention the name of a single victim in his remarks. He gave dubious statistics that fall apart upon scrutiny. And this tripped up Mnuchin with an important Senator, Republican Dean Heller of Nevada, one of the worst states for foreclosures. Heller asked how many Nevada loans were in OneWest's servicing portfolio. Mnuchin didn't know. He asked how many foreclosures and loan modifications OneWest committed in Nevada. Mnuchin didn't know. Heller apparently asked this of Mnuchin and his staff seven different times for weeks, and got no answer. Heller asked why Mnuchin and his investors bought OneWest. Mnuchin said it would have been more lucrative to invest in Bank of America. (Not true; the investors doubled their money when OneWest was sold) Heller keyed in on the FDIC Loss-Share Agreement with OneWest, where the agency committed to backstop losses by the bank. Mnuchin couldn't give a figure on how much money FDIC paid OneWest. The number is $1.2 billion. "You're saying $1.2 billion isn't an incentive to foreclose?" Heller asked. Mnuchin said no, but combined with the normal incentives among servicers to foreclose, this backstop was critical for OneWest.

Heller's tough questioning suggests that he might not be inclined to support Mnuchin. And one senator in the committee could bottle up the nomination. That's worth watching.

Watch here:


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