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Trump Treasury pick to defend foreclosure record

Trump Treasury pick to defend foreclosure record
© Greg Nash

President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump: LeBron James's 'racist rants' are divisive, nasty North Carolina man accused of fraudulently obtaining .5M in PPP loans Biden announces picks to lead oceans, lands agencies MORE’s pick for Treasury secretary will start his confirmation hearing Thursday by defending his record at a bank accused of illegal foreclosure practices in an attempt to head off Democratic attacks.

Steven Mnuchin will try to defuse Democratic attacks on his tenure at California-based OneWest Bank, where he oversaw more than 36,000 foreclosures, in his opening testimony to the Senate Finance Committee, according to a copy of his remarks obtained by media outlets.

“Since I was first nominated to serve as Treasury Secretary, I have been maligned as taking advantage of others’ hardships in order to earn a buck,” Mnuchin will say, according to his prepared remarks. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Mnuchin’s early acknowledgement of his record should help him jump in front of expected Democratic attacks on OneWest. Mnuchin spokeswoman Tara Bradshaw called OneWest “an American success story” that the Treasury pick is eager to tell.  

Democrats have ripped into Mnuchin for his record at the bank, which he led from 2009 to 2015 after purchasing, revamping and renaming failing IndyMac with a group of investors.

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OneWest quickly became profitable but was investigated for violating California state foreclosure laws. It is now the subject of complaints that it violated federal fair housing and discrimination laws.

Democrats have called Mnuchin the “foreclosure king,” and progressive advocacy groups are running television ads targeting vulnerable Republican senators from states devastated by the 2008 housing crisis in connection with his nomination.

Mnuchin has defended his time at OneWest, pointing to the portfolio of risky mortgages he inherited and the more than 100,000 loan modifications he said the bank offered.

Mnuchin also said he helped save thousands of jobs by salvaging OneWest before it was taken apart.

“My group had nothing to do with the creation of risky loans in the IndyMac loan portfolios," Mnuchin will say. "We did this because we believed in our ability to rebuild and create a successful regional bank. We believed in recovery for the American economy." 

A group of Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden plan would nearly double capital gains tax for wealthy: report Top general concerned about Afghan forces after US troops leave Progressives divided over efforts to repeal SALT cap MORE (D-Mass.), held a forum on Wednesday where people who had been affected by OneWest's foreclosure practices urged senators to vote against Mnuchin.

“Putting Steve Mnuchin in charge of the country’s financial system is an insult to families like mine: families who worked hard and did everything they could to get by after the economy collapsed,” said Heather McCreary, a Nevada woman who was foreclosed on by OneWest. 

Cristina Clifford, a California woman who was foreclosed on, said that appointing Mnuchin Treasury Secretary "could be devastating for this country." 

"It might be great for a few small percent, but for the rest of us, it's going to send us into a tailspin," she said.

Senators in attendance at the forum also expressed concerns about Mnuchin and OneWest.

“Judging by Mr. Mnuchin’s tenure as the head of OneWest Bank, there is significant evidence that he has no interest in working for the benefit of all Americans,” Warren said.

Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinCornyn, Sinema unveil bill aimed at confronting border surge US Chamber of Commerce comes out in support of bipartisan, bicameral immigration bill GOP sees immigration as path to regain power MORE (D-Ill.) said that Mnuchin "needs to show not only competence on banking issues, but an understanding of banking customers across America."

Mnuchin spokeswoman Bradshaw said of the forum that “the Democrats are playing politics with catchy-sound bites that blatantly neglect Steven’s record as a loan modifying machine at OneWest who tirelessly worked to help families stay in their homes."

Updated at 5:01 p.m.