Trying to throw an 89 year-old widow out on the street. Changing the locks on a women trapped in the snow. Engaging in “harsh, repugnant and repulsive” acts.
That’s the business record of a bank headed by Donald Trump’s new finance chair.
The pick of Steven Mnuchin is already turning heads in political circles, because the former Hillary Clinton donor is now working with Trump to beat none other than Hillary Clinton.
But a bit of cash to Democrats may be the least of Mnuchin’s perceived sins.
After promising that he would no longer be self-funding (a term applied loosely here because Trump has been accepting contributions for the entirety of his campaign), the presumptive Republican nominee hired private investor and Wall Street veteran Steven Mnuchin as his national finance chairman. Conventional wisdom suggests this would complicate any attempts from Trump to paint Clinton as a Wall Street shill, but this is not a candidate governed by conventional wisdom.
Like many people in Trump’s inner circle—for example, Trump—Mnuchin has contributed a significant amount of money to Democratic candidates in the past, including Hillary Clinton. According to filings from the Federal Election Commission, Mnuchin has contributed over $8,000 to Clinton since 2000. He has also given to Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP candidate who went on a public crusade against Trump, and President Barack Obama, who has lacerated Trump at every possible opportunity.
But having a close association with Democrats is nothing new for those in Trump’s corner. Even his own family members couldn’t vote for him in the New York primary because they were registered Democrats.
What’s more, Mnuchin used to work for a bank backed by George Soros, a man who recently said that Trump “is doing the work of ISIS” and pumped $7 million into the pro-Clinton Super PAC Priorities USA Action.
That bank got into hot water for attempted home foreclosures after the 2008 housing bubble burst.
A New York judge erased $525,000 in mortgage debt owed by a Long Island couple to OneWest Bank in 2009 because the institution was harassing them. Suffolk County Judge Jeffrey Spinner blasted the bank’s “harsh, repugnant and repulsive” acts as they attempted to toss the family out on the street around Thanksgiving.
Spinner alleged that the bank refused to work out a deal with the couple to help make mortgage payments they owed and called the bank’s conduct “inequitable, unconscionable, vexatious and opprobrious,” according to a report from the New York Post.
Around the same time, Mnuchin’s bank was hounding an 89-year-old widow, attempting to foreclose on her home in California. Irene Jones, the woman in question, reportedly said in court that the stress of repeated foreclosure threats from OneWest Bank and its predecessor IndyMac Bank made her husband depressed and contributed to his death.
That same year, the bank changed the locks on Minnesota woman Leslie Park’s home. She discovered she had been locked out when she returned home in a blizzard. The bank later apologized for this incident.
In 2011, Bloomberg reports, the “notoriously press-shy” Mnuchin endured “protests on the lawn of his Bel Air mansion by foreclosed homeowners angered at his lender’s handling of soured mortgages.”
OneWest Bank also disproportionately foreclosed on senior citizens. Using a FOIA request, the California Reinvestment Coalition determined that OneWest's reverse mortgage servicing subsidiary Financial Freedom was responsible for 39 percent of reverse mortgage foreclosures, typically something that goes to senior citizens. But Financial Freedom only serves 17 of the market so OneWest was foreclosing at twice the rate one would expect.
103-year-old Myrtle Lewis ran into similar issues with OneWest in 2014. She accidentally allowed her insurance to lapse, which prompted the bank to attempt to foreclose on her property. Lewis reinstated her insurance and the bank still didn’t back off. It is unclear what happened to the property.
Similarly, OneWest Bank foreclosed on more communities of color than white communities. Of the 35,877 foreclosures the bank conducted in California from April 2009 to April 2015, 68 percent occurred in areas where the non-white population was 50 percent or higher.
“Steven is a professional at the highest level with an extensive and very successful financial background,” Trump said in a press release announcing the new hire. “He brings unprecedented experience and expertise to a fundraising operation that will benefit the Republican Party and ultimately defeat Hillary Clinton.”
At least Trump didn’t say he’d throw Hillary out on the street.
Updated 5/5/16, 6:30pm to add new information on OneWest’s disproportionate forclosures on seniors and minorities.