An Ohio newspaper reported that Steve Mnuchin, President Trump’s nominee to be Treasury secretary, misled senators about foreclosures by OneWest Bank while he was chief executive, providing more fuel to opponents ahead of a contentious committee confirmation vote scheduled for Monday.
The Columbus Dispatch reported Sunday that Mnuchin denied in written responses to questions from the Senate Finance Committee that OneWest engaged in so-called robo-signing of mortgage documents.
The paper said its analysis of nearly four dozen foreclosure cases in Ohio’s Franklin County in 2010 showed the bank “frequently used robo-signers.”
The practice, prevalent throughout the mortgage industry in the aftermath of the financial crisis, involved employees at financial firms signing foreclosure documents en masse without properly reviewing them.
Democrats sharply criticized Mnuchin during his confirmation hearing on Jan. 19 concerning OneWest’s foreclosures while he ran the Pasadena bank from 2009 to 2015. They called the institution, which formerly had been troubled subprime lender IndyMac Bank, “a foreclosure machine.”
“Mnuchin ran a bank that was notorious for aggressively foreclosing on homeowners, and now he’s lying about his bank’s dismal track record in his official responses to the Finance Committee,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Monday. “Working families simply cannot trust him to be the country’s top economic official.”
At the hearing, Mnuchin blamed the large amount of foreclosures on bad IndyMac loans he inherited. Mnuchin and other investors put up nearly $1.6 billion to buy IndyMac and renamed it OneWest. They sold the bank to CIT Group in 2015 for $3.4 billion.
The new report is expected to be raised by Democrats when the committee meets at 3 p.m. PST on Monday to vote on his nomination. Many if not all the Democrats on the committee are expected to oppose his nomination.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who sits on the committee, has said he would vote against Mnuchin.
“Mnuchin profited off of kicking people out of their homes and then gave false testimony about his bank’s abusive practices,” Brown said Sunday. “He cannot be trusted to make decisions about policies as personal to working Ohioans as their taxes and retirement.”
The Columbus Dispatch cited a foreclosure involving a mortgage signed by Erica Johnson-Seck, a OneWest vice president who said in a deposition in a 2009 Florida case that she signed an average of 750 documents a week.
Barney Keller, a spokesman for Mnuchin, said Monday that several courts had dismissed cases involving allegations of robo-signing by Johnson-Seck.
“The media is picking on a hardworking bank employee whose reputation has been maligned but whose work has been upheld by numerous courts all around the country in the face of scurrilous and false allegations,” Keller said.
In written questions to Mnuchin, Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.) asked if OneWest engaged in robo-signing.
“OneWest Bank did not ‘robo-sign’ documents,” Mnuchin said. He added that the bank was the only one to “successfully complete” an independent foreclosure review process by federal banking regulators looking into robo-signing allegations.
In 2011-12, several mortgage servicers agreed to pay a total of $3.9 billion to borrowers for foreclosure errors as part of a settlement with regulators.
OneWest was not part of the settlement because an independent consultant hired by the bank completed its own review and “remediation checks have been issued to those borrowers where financial injury was identified,” according to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Casey said Mnuchin “continues to deny his bank robo-signed documents, while evidence from court cases, bank regulators, and news reports continues to show the opposite.