This week the Senate is expected to vote on the nomination of Steve Mnuchin, millionaire businessman, former Goldman Sachs partner and Hollywood film producer, for Treasury Secretary.
Mnuchin has been a contentious nominee because of the many allegations of fraud that have plagued his time in both the banking and film producing industries. In his Senate Finance Committee hearing on January 19th, Mnuchin was questioned in regard to his involvement in a massive wave of foreclosures conducted by OneWest Bank Group, of which Mnuchin was CEO. The bank was accused of engaging in the practice of robo-signing, whereby foreclosure documents are signed en masse without proper review. During this period, Mnuchin was nicknamed the “Foreclosure King” and his institution referred to as “a foreclosure machine.”
After Mnuchin submitted written responses that called the accusations frivolous and false, the Columbus Dispatch released a report in which they analyzed nearly four dozen foreclosure cases in one Ohio county in 2010, finding that the bank had indeed “frequently used robo-signatures.”
“Mnuchin profited off of kicking people out of their homes and then gave false testimony about his bank’s abusive practices,” said Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “He cannot be trusted to make decisions about policies as personal to working Ohioans as their taxes and retirement.”
When Senators found out that they had been deliberately misled by the nominee, the Democratic members of the Finance Committee boycotted the January 31 vote to move forward the nominations of both Mnuchin and nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, denying the Committee of the required quorum mandating that at least one Senator from each party be present.
Republicans responded the next day by suspending the rules of quorum, and voting to send both nominations to the full Senate for a vote. In a letter to chairman Orrin Hatch, Democratic members explained why they carried out a boycott, stating, “Both nominees have yet to answer important questions that impact the American people. Further, we have significant concerns that both Mr. Mnuchin and Congressman Price gave inaccurate and misleading testimony and responses to questions to the committee. These Cabinet nominees should answer basic questions about their records before we move forward with a committee vote.”
Two days after the Committee vote, new allegations of fraud surfaced in relation to Mnuchin’s former company, Relativity Media. The accusations state Mnuchin was responsible for mismanaging investor funds and failing to notify the investors that the company was clearly failing. The lawsuit brought by RKA Film Financing accuses Mnuchin of using money loaned for advertising expenses, approximately $81 million, for general corporate expenses including salaries, bonuses, and debts. RKA is suing both Mnuchin and his former partner Ryan Kavanaugh for over $110 million in damages.
Despite the allegations of fraud and the Committee delay, Mnuchin will move on to the Senate floor this week for his final confirmation vote. Votes on cabinet nominees DeVos, Sessions, and Price are also expected to take place this week.
Media Resources: USA Today 2/3/2017; CNN 1/31/2017; The Washington Post 2/1/2017; Wall Street Journal 2/3/2017; Feminist Majority Foundation 1/31/17, 2/2/17; LA Times 1/30/17