February 02, 2017

Cortez Masto RGJ Op-Ed: “Why I Can’t Support ‘Foreclosure King”

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, wrote an op-ed column for the Reno Gazette-Journal highlighting why she cannot support President Trump’s Treasury Secretary nominee, former OneWest Bank CEO and Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin. The column highlights Heather McCreary of Sparks, Nevada, who recently came to Capitol Hill to discuss OneWest’s controversial foreclosure practices.

Reno Gazette-Journal: Cortez Masto: “Why I Can’t Support ‘Foreclosure King”

By Catherine Cortez Masto, Special to the RGJ

Feb. 3, 2017

The “Foreclosure King” could soon have another name: Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. President Donald Trump has nominated former OneWest Bank CEO and Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin to run the federal agency tasked with crafting and implementing U.S. economic policy.

The Treasury Department has the vital mission of promoting the conditions that enable economic growth, stability, and job opportunities. Their actions directly affect the lives of every American. Our next Treasury Secretary should have a proven record of fighting to expand economic opportunity for everyone, and Mr. Mnuchin falls far short of that test.

In the depths of the Great Recession, Nevada was ground zero for the housing crisis. “For Sale” signs lined the streets and foreclosure notices hung on doors in neighborhoods across the state. Many more families lived with constant fear and uncertainty over how much longer they would be able to stay in their homes.

As Nevada’s Attorney General, I took on the big banks and established the Home Again Homeowner Relief Program to ensure Nevada residents can be aware of the state and federal housing resources available to them. The Home Again program assists first time homebuyers, individuals seeking credit restoration and homeowners looking to restructure their loans to ensure more affordable monthly payments. A simple hotline number has gone a long way.

Unfortunately, not everyone was willing to do what they could to help the millions of Americans who were suffering.

OneWest Bank -- formerly known as IndyMac -- was one such bank. Instead of trying to help homeowners, OneWest enforced predatory and unforgiving practices that only served to line the pockets of its owners on Wall Street.

Steven Mnuchin purchased IndyMac from the federal government after it collapsed, and he then took control of the hundreds of thousands of mortgages the bank managed.

Instead of working to help these mortgage-holders, OneWest Bank under Mnuchin’s leadership became a “foreclosure machine.” The bank had one of the highest denial rates for applications to the Home Affordable Modification Program. A judge in Wisconsin cited the bank’s “harsh, repugnant, shocking, and repulsive” practices when deciding a suit against them. Recent documents show that the company used robo-signing to deny modification claims -- proving that it did not fairly consider loan modification applications for tens of thousands of homeowners.

When confronted with these facts at his Senate confirmation hearing, Mr. Mnuchin lied. He denied OneWest used robo-signing, offered empty excuses and shifted blame for his company’s heinous practices.

Last month, Heather McCreary of Sparks came to Capitol Hill to share her heart-wrenching story of how she applied to OneWest for a loan modification in 2010. Despite three applications and following all instructions, the bank kept her family dangling and then suddenly foreclosed on her home, giving them 30 days to move out.

President Trump’s choice of Mr. Mnuchin is a slap in the face for Nevada families like Heather’s.

We cannot afford to return to the misguided policies that brought us to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and devastated our state’s economy. But that is exactly what we can expect if Steven Mnuchin is confirmed as President Trump’s Treasury Secretary. He will not have my vote.