Economy

Foreclosure Victim Brought to Tears During Elizabeth Warren's Panel Discussion of Trump's Treasury Pick, Steve Mnuchin

"I did everything they asked because I was determined to keep my home."

Photo Credit: SenateDemocrats / YouTube

Senate Democrats prepared for the confirmation hearing of nominee of Treasury Secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin by hosting a forum with foreclosure victims of Mnuchin-led bank OneWest.

The forum was moderated by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who pressed that OneWest's foreclosures were egregious, even for a financial crisis. 

“OneWest was different,” Warren pressed. “OneWest was notorious for its belligerence and cruelty. And eight years after the crash, they are still doing it.” 

Among the panel was an elderly Minnesotan widow who had once been told she could live in her house if her husband died. Now, despite living in the house for half a century, she's fighting to stay. 

"I hear that Steve Mnuchin was a leader of the bank that is [foreclosing on] me and other seniors. I do not think a man like that should be the Treasury Secretary and in charge of our economy," Colleen Ison-Hodroff said. "We can't let that happen."

"She's still going through this process," Heather McCreary, another foreclosure victim, added. "She's 84 years old; she doesn't know if her house is going to be available to her when she comes home."

Sylvia Oliver, a Scotch Plains, NJ resident, spoke about the moment she realized One West never had any intention of modifying her home loan as she and her husband had requested. 

After hiring an attorney "that process went on for about five or six months with the same cycle of me sending paperwork over and over again to the bank in the same answer again last year," Oliver described.

"[Mnuchin's] bank has had ample opportunity to modify my loan, in fact they told me that they owned the loan, so I know they can't blame the situation on investors not allowing them to modify my loan," she added, before concluding that his track record was undignified for anyone, much less for Treasury Secretary.

Paulina Gonzalez, executive director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, found through a freedom of information request she filed with HUD that the bank had foreclosed on more seniors than any other company participating in the federal home equity conversion mortgage conversion program. 

She also noted that One West's "forclosure machine" disproportionately affected people of color, particularly in California, where they were foreclosed on at nine times the average rate. 

"Mr. Mnuchin may defend his record saying that he inherited all these bad loans, that the foreclosures were inevitable and that the bank followed the law in dealing with his customers," Gonzalez explained in her testimony. "We strongly disagree."

One Southern California woman broke down in tears telling her story. 

"I experienced firsthand what it was like to be subject to OneWest's greed," Cristina Clifford began. "And I can tell you that the person who ran OneWest bank should not be the person responsible for oversight of the U.S. economy."

Clifford bought her first home in Carlsbad, a condo near where she ran her acupuncture practice. She was never late on a payment until the 2008 recession began to take its toll on her business. 

"In March of 2009, I was unable to make my entire mortgage payment for the first time in eight years," Clifford said. She called OneWest for help, but was told she would have to fall behind in her payments to receive any assistance.

"Of course, this was misleading [and] seems to be a common tactic that they use to push people into default," Clifford noted.

Instead of falling behind on her payments, Clifford began a long and tedious loan modification process. After sending in numerous documents, she was offered her first loan modification two months later. 

"I was thrilled: the new loan would fit perfectly within my budget," she recalled.

But after signing the papers and sending OneWest a check for the new amount, she was told that the bank had not received her materials. 

"I knew right away this wasn't right because they had cashed the check for the first modified payment," she said. 

So she applied again, this time submitting even more documents.

"Despite how difficult OneWest made the process, I did everything they asked because I was determined to keep my home," she explained. "Steve Mnuchin profited from people like me even when we did everything we could to keep our homes." 

Watch:

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

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