Trump’s pick for the next U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, has a lot of super smart people seeing red. So for those of us who don’t understand reverse mortgages or itemized deductions, here’s a plain-English guide to all the ways Steve Mnuchin is an asshole.
1. He worked for Goldman Sachs
After spending the entire campaign slamming Clinton for her Goldman Sachs ties (the one and only time we were ever even sort of on board with a word that comes out of his mouth), Trump tapped Mnuchin, a former hedge fund manager at Goldman Sachs. Mnuchin worked at Goldman for 17 years, and he probably didn’t even have to apply for the job: his dad had worked there for three decades.
Even better: while Mnuchin was at Goldman, he was head of the mortgage department, back in the glory days of collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps – in other words, the very practices that drove the foreclosure crisis in the first place.
2. He owned a bank that was famous for how brutal its foreclosure methods were
Speaking of the foreclosure crisis… in the depths of it, Mnuchin was part of a group that bought a failed bank called IndyMac, then turned it into a bank OneWest. OneWest went on to become one of the foreclosure crisis’s baddest bad guys. Under Mnuchin, OneWest foreclosed on more than 36,000 families. Some of OneWest’s victims include:
Ossie Lofton, evicted over a 27-cent mistake
In 2014, a 90-year old Florida woman named Ossie Lofton got a bill from OneWest for $423.30, to cover insurance on her property. She sent them a check for $423. OneWest sent another bill for the remaining 30 cents, but Ms. Lofton (again, 90 years old) sent back a check for just 3 cents. That November, OneWest notified Ms. Lofton that they were foreclosing on her house. The bank then proceeded to spend TWO YEARS fighting her for it. Florida Rural Legal Services finally got them to back off in October 2016.
Tecora Parks, locked out in a blizzard
This time we’re in Minneapolis, where OneWest had duped yet another elderly woman into an “adjustable-rate mortgage,” (with an adjustable-rate mortgage, instead of paying the same amount every month, your rates can go up and down as “the market” conditions change. They’re commonly pushed on lower-income people, usually with a low rate up front that gets jacked up once you’re signed on). ANYWAY, in 2009, Leslie Parks was attempting to fight OneWest on behalf of her mom, Tecora Parks, whose duplex was in foreclosure. Despite the fact that nothing had been finalized, Leslie came home from work one December evening to discover that OneWest had sent someone over to change her locks, locking her and her mother out of their duplex in the middle of a blizzard.
Diana Yano-Horoski, who became the target of a vindictive revenge lawsuit
Another set of victims were a sick woman and her husband who were treated so badly that a judge stepped in and wiped their debt, and it still didn’t end well. In 2005, Diana Yano-Horoski developed some health issues that made it hard for her and her husband to pay their mortgage payments. OneWest foreclosed in 2009, and the couple tried to get a mortgage modification. During that summer, OneWest treated them so badly during their meetings that, when the couple ended up in court in December, a judge ordered the bank to forgive every penny of the couple’s debt.
OneWest couldn’t let it go though, and, after the spotlight had faded, they appealed the decision – and won. To add insult to injury, when OneWest sold the foreclosed property at a loss in 2015, they sent the Horoskis a $264,500 bill to make up the difference.
Those are just some of the worst stories. Overall, OneWest behaved so poorly during the foreclosure crisis that, while Mnuchin was the bank chair, the government issued a consent order against them (a consent order, generally speaking, is when a regulator says a bank has inadequate controls to keep out dirty money and the bank agrees to take steps to fix that). The Office of Thrift Supervision said the bank had “unsafe and unsound practices, violations of law and foreclosure processes geared toward speed and quantity, instead of quality and accuracy.”
3. He produces shitty movies
Steve Mnuchin produced Suicide Squad, Legend of Tarzan, and Vacation. Enough said.
In all seriousness though, this is a disturbing pick.
It matters that he has family ties to Goldman Sachs, a company that spends tens of millions of dollars to influence our tax policies: policies that keep Goldman’s tax bills low and starve our budget of money it needs for schools, bridges, veteran care, Social Security and Medicare, and all kinds of other public services. It matters that Mnuchin had the power to stop OneWest, and didn’t. It matters because the Secretary of the Treasury is an incredibly powerful position when it comes to the way the U.S. collects and spends its cash. If another economic crisis happens on Trump’s watch, it’ll be Mnuchin who decides who will get help and who won’t. And that’s fucking terrifying.
To learn more about what the Secretary of the Treasury does, check out this primer at Vice.