A bank established by President-elect Donald Trump's choice for Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, once tried to foreclose on a 90-year-old Florida woman over a $0.27 payment mistake, reported Politico Thursday. Critics in the story allege that OneWest, founded by Mnuchin and partners, took advantage of the 2008 housing collapse by buying out risky loans from mortgage lender IndyMac and, in turn, getting help from Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to cover the costs.
OneWest has been widely criticized for its aggressive foreclosure tactics, and Politico surfaced an especially troubling example from two years ago that involved 90-year-old Ossie Lofton in Lakeland, Florida. She had apparently take out a reverse mortgage, a loan that allows older homeowners to use to equity they've built up in their homes to get cash without a monthly payment plan.
Lofton reportedly owed the bank $423.30 after some confusion insurance coverage. She mistakenly sent a check for only $430. OneWest sent another bill for $0.30 but Lofton sent the bank just $0.03. OneWest, in turn, foreclosed. Florida Rural Legal Services, a non-profit, challenged the foreclosure and requested the local court for a jury trial last month.
Mnuchin and his partners last year sold OneWest, which has been described a so-called "foreclosure machine," for a reported profit of about $1.5 billion. "Mr. Mnuchin oversaw a bank that created difficulties and financial ruin for tens of thousands of families," Kevin Stein, from the housing advocacy group California Reinvestment Coalition, told NPR.
Mnuchin, 53, has no government experience, but has long been a major Wall Street figure and has had a career defined by "moving fast to seize opportunities that might terrify others," according to the Wall Street Journal. He also spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs, a firm tied to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign, but has also featured prominently in Trump's transition into the White House.