Oregon Senator Drags Trump's Pick for Treasury Secretary in Heated Hearing
Democratic members of the Senate have mostly tempered their criticism of Donald Trump's ghoulish cabinet appointees, but their sense of restraint finally appears to be waning. Take Thursday's confirmation hearing of Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs employee and CEO of OneWest, one of the 2008 housing crisis' greatest profiteers.
In one of the afternoon's more heated exchanges, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) took Mnuchin to task for his bank's reputation as a "foreclosure machine":
"Under Mr. Mnuchin, OneWest churned out foreclosures like Chinese factories churned out Trump suits and ties," he spat.
"Senator Wyden, I've got a Valium pill you may want to take before the second round," Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) joked weakly.
According to a 2013 memo from the California attorney general's office, OneWest engaged in "widespread misconduct" to boost foreclosures during the financial crisis. A ProPublica report from December 2016 also found that the Mnuchin-led bank was responsible for 17 percent of the loans but 39 percent of the foreclosures from 2009 - 2014.
This misconduct disproportionately affected people of color. A study by the California Reinvestment Coalition revealed that "out of the 36,648 foreclosures conducted by the bank between 2009 and mid-2016, 68 per cent were in zip codes where non-white residents represented the majority."
"At precisely the same time the 'foreclosure machine' was running, OneWest funds were poured into glam investments in Hollywood. In 2012, OneWest struck an agreement to loan hundreds of millions of dollars to a movie studio called Relativity media," Wyden also noted.
As CEO of OneWest's holding company, Mnuchin became co-chair of Relativity. The studio quickly tanked.
"OneWest pulled out 50 million dollars, emptying several Relativity accounts including one-year mark for guild expenses that expanded wages for contractors and tradesmen. Mr. Mnuchin bailed out just before the studio declared bankruptcy," Wyden added.
Wyden also spoke of Mnuchin's stint as a director of the holding company for Sears.
Mnuchin "served on the committee that watchdogs the employee pension fund," which reduced retirees' pensions dramatically, "enough to offset roughly a third of the premiums the seniors pay for Medicare part B," Wyden explained.
In the meantime, Sears closed hundreds of stores nationwide, a trend that continues into 2017.
Based on his experience, Wyden believes Mnuchin has a "truly impressive capacity to advantage himself while others [fall] behind."