As the story of the so-called MAGA Bomber begins to unfold, one of the most interesting pieces of information to come out of the investigation is about the foreclosure of the attacker’s home in 2009 by OneWest Bank. Interestingly, the former chairman of OneWest was incumbent Treasury Secretary Steven “Foreclosure King” Mnuchin which brings back to light Mnuchin’s past legal wrongdoings. Not only did his bank oversee more than 36,000 foreclosures in California between 2006 and 2015, but his bank was also accused of refusing to give out loans to minorities. However Mnuchin’s criminality is not confined to his tenure at OneWest Bank but rather is present throughout his entire professional career.
The accusations mounted so heavily against Mnuchin that in 2013 the Attorney General of San Francisco called on the California Attorney General, now Senator Kamala Harris, to prosecute him and his bank. Harris, without explanation, declined to do so. She did, however, receive a campaign donation from Mnuchin during her 2016 Senate race, the only Democrat to receive a donation from Mnuchin. Despite Senator Harris’s failure to prosecute, it is hard to see how Steven Mnuchin is not a criminal, especially if one is not financially motivated to see otherwise.
During the Great Recession, IndyMac Bank, a well-known mortgage bank, failed and was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The bank was sold to Mnuchin and his partners who renamed it to OneWest Bank and, after running it for six years, sold the institution for a $1.5 billion dollar profit. To turn this former failing bank into the profitable company it became, Mnuchin acted ruthlessly, operating the bank as a “foreclosure machine.” Mnuchin’s bank resulted in nearly 40 percent of all foreclosures nationwide, despite only servicing 17 percent of mortgages.
Aside from the clearly corrupt and disproportionate number of foreclosures, the process Mnuchin used to facilitate these foreclosures was blatantly illegal. In a court deposition, Vice President of OneWest, Erica Sec, admitted to “robo-signing” nearly 750 per week, looking at each document for no more than 30 seconds and not signing them in the presence of a notary. She also admitted to being one of eight employees who followed this practice.
To understand the corruption behind Mnuchin’s actions, it is important to contextualize his actions within his career. Mnuchin’s first job out of college was at Goldman Sachs, where his father was also conveniently a partner. The younger Mnuchin would become a partner as well, in 1994, when he also became head of the mortgage securities department. Mnuchin had worked with that department since starting at Goldman, selling mortgage-backed securities. Given the number of foreclosures Mnuchin oversaw during his time at OneWest and his extensive career in Goldman’s mortgage department, it is extremely likely that he profited off of foreclosures on homes that he helped mortgage.
It is not just one particular event or wrongdoing that makes Mnuchin a criminal, but rather, it is the fact that he built his entire career and personal net worth off of corruption. And it is the consistent ruthlessness and disregard for the law with which Mnuchin and his bank acted that makes them deserving of prosecution. Mnuchin’s bank profited from over 16,000 foreclosures, depriving many people of their homes and ruining their lives. As the individual responsible for this systematic injustice, Mnuchin, much like many other white-collar criminals who frequently evade punishment, must be punished.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 12 print edition.
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