Time for Sen. Heller, Mnuchin to come clean on foreclosure data
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At his confirmation hearing, Treasury Secretary-designate Steve Mnuchin had an opportunity to give the Senate Finance Committee an honest answer about his track record at OneWest Bank.  

Instead, Mnuchin was dishonest about how many families his bank had helped to avoid foreclosure. He took the same tactic in his follow-up written responses to Senators’ questions.

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As Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDemocrats spend big to put Senate in play This week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE (R-Nev.) explained at the hearing, Nevada was one of the states hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis, which is why he asked Mnuchin about the bank’s impact in his home state.

 

But Mnuchin was unprepared to answer these questions, despite the fact that Heller’s office had contacted Mnuchin’s office seven times for this information prior to the hearing. Mnuchin assured the senator that he would provide the data to him after the hearing. 

Instead, in his written responses released earlier this week, Mnuchin refused to answer Heller’s questions; again.

Mnuchin backtracked on his earlier promises. He responded that he couldn’t answer the question because he no longer works at CIT Group, which bought OneWest in 2015, and where he served on the board of directors until last month.  

Sen. Heller tweeted on Jan. 27 that he met with Mnuchin (again) and was “pleased to receive the answers I was searching for to my questions.”  

It’s time for Heller and Mnuchin to share that information with Sen. Heller’s constituents, people like Heather McCreary, from Sparks, Nevada, who were foreclosed on because of OneWest’s incompetence.  

A mortgage modification is a change in the terms of the loan that helps a homeowner keep paying the mortgage while also helping the bank avoid the costs associated with having to foreclose.

In his written response to a question about how many Nevada families were helped by OneWest granting them a mortgage modification, Mnuchin appeared to make some wild leaps in logic.  

Using a statistic that his bank had made 101,000 modification offers, he then suggested: “Based on the percentage of loans modified nationally in the MHA service assessment area that are in Nevada being 2.1 percent, that would indicate that we would reasonably estimate would be [sic] that One West modified 2,150 loans in Nevada in the period from 2009 to mid-2013.”

Mnuchin is suggesting that the 101,000 modification offers are the same as modifications completed. This is akin to a baseball player boasting about the number of pitches he swung at without saying how many times he actually hit the ball. 

Of course, only Mnuchin, and apparently now Sen. Heller, know the real number of how many families OneWest foreclosed on in Nevada and, conversely, how many mortgages OneWest modified to help families.  

As of right now, the two are refusing to share that information with the public. Since Mnuchin earlier provided an estimate of modifications that appears to be wildly inflated, we can only speculate that the real number is far lower.

Foreclosing on families is an ugly business, and it’s even uglier when it turns out that people lost their homes unnecessarily because of incompetent loan servicing by the bank that’s handling their mortgages.  

As we’ve learned, far too many of OneWest’s foreclosures happened, not because a homeowner didn’t qualify for a modification, but because of mistakes made by the bank when homeowners reached out for help.  

As CEO of the bank, and later chair of the board, Mnuchin knew that homeowners were falling through the cracks.

In fact, his name is the first one listed on the 2011 consent order OneWest signed with the Office of Thrift Supervision over problems related to robo-signing, dual-tracking, and other practices that led to needless foreclosures.

Apparently, Mnuchin forgot about signing this consent order when he responded to Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe US needs to lead again on disability rights No one wins with pro-abortion litmus test New ObamaCare enrollment period faces Trump headwinds MORE Jr.’s (D-Pa.) question by saying, “OneWest Bank did not 'robo-sign' documents.”

If Mnuchin won’t be honest with senators when he’s trying to get the job, what do they expect him to do when he's secretary?  

 

Paulina Gonzalez is the executive director of the California Reinvestment Coalition. Prior to joining CRC, Paulina served for over four years as the Executive Director for Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE). 


 

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