When President Donald Trump named Steven Mnuchin as his pick for U.S. Treasury Secretary, some of Trump’s own voters were surprised. After all, he promised to #DrainTheSwamp by ridding the #RiggedSystem with Wall Street corruption. He even specifically campaigned against Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs. So why did Trump turn to Goldman Sachs alum Mnuchin shortly after his surprise election victory?
Below the fold, I’ll introduce you to a pair of Nevada Trump voters who have personal experience with the very “foreclosure machine” Mnuchin participated in.
In 2006, John and Diane Hall refinanced their loan on the house John bought from the estate of Diane’s previous husband (who had deceased). Or so they thought. Diane always had her suspicions. The initial documents didn’t look correct. Their broker advised them not to take the “bad loan.”And just weeks later their original lender, People’s Choice, went belly-up. There were warning signs all around.
But remember, this was 2006. This was the height of the 2000’s era housing bubble. Las Vegas real estate prices were through the roof, and the Halls were being advised by nearly everyone else to close the loan as soon as they could.
WATCH: The Halls tell their story.
Just over a year after the Halls initiated their home loan refinance, they were finally called in to sign documents in April 2006. “I didn’t want to read 50 pages of crap,” explained John, so he powered through a marathon of papers to sign. As John was signing, Diane was doubting.
Where was the title company? Where was the notary public? Why wasn’t the new mortgage provider going through all the necessary legal hoops? At one point, Diane grabbed the pen from John because she didn’t want them to sign “until [all the entities involved] got their s–t straight.”
The Halls ultimately signed those documents on April 20, 2006. On May 8, Diane began asking questions again. “We don’t have a mortgage company. Ours is dead. Who are we making payments to?”
Diane’s doubts only strengthened on June 1, 2006, when they received a check in the mail from Countrywide. Where was the mortgage? At the time, Countrywide told the Halls the $30,000 check was a refund for double-payment of State Farm homeowner insurance.
But later that month, Diane dug deeper into those documents she and John signed in April. She was alarmed upon opening a manila envelope and uncovering both an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) contract and a negative amortization (or negative ARM) contract. The loan was supposed to be set at a 7.5% fixed rate! Why did the manila envelope have ARM and negative ARM contracts with John’s signature when John was supposed to sign a contract for a fixed-rate mortgage? And why was there a notary statement included when no notary public was present during the April 20, 2006, appointment?
From there, this already sordid tale becomes even messier. One document that was always missing from the manila envelope was the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) statement. No mortgage is ever supposed to close without the TILA statement. With no TILA statement, and with an income statement that included a large “DO NOT SIGN” notice, Diane realized she and John had been roped into a ninja loan (as in “no income, no job or assets”). Ninja loans were among the various subprime mortgages being used in the 2000’s to keep the housing bubble fat and happy.
Enter Steven Mnuchin. He spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs. He started his own hedge fund. He’s been a well-known player on Wall Street, the very heart of the financial “establishment” Donald Trump railed against on the campaign trail in 2016. In 2009, Mnuchin led the purchase of failed subprime lender IndyMac. Mnuchin and his partners would later refashion IndyMac as OneWest, with Mnuchin himself as Chairman and CEO.
This is where we run into the “foreclosure machine”. From 2009 to 2015, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) paid OneWest over $1 billion for at least 36,000 foreclosures. Several homeowners fought back in court. In one case in New York, the judge described OneWest’s actions as “harsh, repugnant, shocking and repulsive.” In 2013, prosecutors in the California Attorney General’s Office found “evidence suggestive of widespread misconduct” at OneWest, including recording false documents and failing to comply with proper procedure in executing foreclosures.
OneWest did not take part in either of this decade’s major foreclosure abuse settlements. Bank of America, which acquired Countrywide in 2008, did.
Yet despite the settlements, John and Diane Hall have yet to see any restitution.
Bank of America attempted foreclosure on the Halls three times. This also meant three mediation attempts under Nevada’s AB 149, with the third seemingly successful on December 29, 2010. Yet the Halls did not receive documents from Bank of America until February 2011. And when they did, the documents were not AB 149 compliant.
On July 9, 2011, the Halls filed a new complaint. They had been sending payments to a Western Union location in California. The following November, an attorney brought in by the Nevada Attorney General’s Office confirmed their loan didn’t sound legal.
In 2012, another foreclosure attempt was initiated. In February 2016, the Halls’ house was ultimately blue-taped. At the fourth and final mediation attempt on July 11, 2016, Diane asked, “Who owns the loan?” Attorneys for Bayview Loan Servicing, the debt collection agency that had obtained the right to foreclose upon the Halls by then, claimed Bank of America was still holding the loan. Yet during a previous mediation hearing in 2012, Bank of America could not produce the documents.
Last fall, John and Diane Hall voted for Donald J. Trump for President. They were particularly attracted to his #DrainTheSwamp anti-corruption, anti-Wall Street message.
They still hold hope Trump will “look out for the little guy” as President.
Last November, following his surprise election as President, Donald Trump picked Steven Mnuchin to serve as his Treasury Secretary. Despite the Trump Campaign’s #DrainTheSwamp anti-corruption, anti-Wall Street message, Mnuchin proposed a policy package full of Wall Street deregulation. And even though Mnuchin promised to display independence at the Treasury Department, he still holds $100 million in CIT stock and sits on CIT’s Board of Directors. (CIT Group purchased OneWest in 2015 for $3.4 billion.)
Even though the Halls still hold hope President Trump will follow through on his promise to #DrainTheSwamp, they do agree with Allied Progress and other consumer advocates that Steven Mnuchin is just too tied to the Wall Street “foreclosure machine” to be trusted with the keys to the U.S. Treasury. The Halls would know, as they themselves fell victim to another arm of that very “foreclosure machine”. The Halls are probably not the only Trump voters who are scratching their heads over this Mnuchin pick. How can someone who positioned himself as “anti-establishment” choose someone deep in Wall Street’s establishment to oversee regulation of his Wall Street establishment colleagues?
Think about that for a moment. Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to #DrainTheSwamp of Wall Street corruption. Voters like John and Diane Hall gravitated to Trump because he promised “change.” Trump then nominated Steven Mnuchin to be Treasury Secretary. Mnuchin took part in Wall Street’s “foreclosure machine,” a brutal attack on distressed homeowners that ensnared people like the Halls. How, then, is President Trump “draining the swamp”?