While Department of the Treasury secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin was largely embraced by Republicans during his first confirmation hearing on Thursday, at least one appeared skeptical.
At the hearing, Sen. Dean Heller expressed his frustration that Mnuchin and his staff had not answered questions about the foreclosure policies Mnuchin’s bank OneWest pursued in the aftermath of the 2008 housing crisis.
Noting the high foreclosure and bankruptcy rates, Heller said that “no state was hurt harder than the state of Nevada.” He pressed the former hedge fund manager about how many homes OneWest foreclosed on in the state, and how much money the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation paid them to do so.
“How many Nevadans did OneWest foreclose on while you owned the bank?” Heller asked.
“I have the information that’s in public reports, but I’m absolutely committed to go back and get that information for you from the bank, so I apologize, I don’t have that with me today, and I do appreciate how hard your state was hit in the foreclosure process,” Mnuchin replied.
When Mnuchin could not answer how many homeowners OneWest provided assistance to following the crisis, Heller interjected.
“Here’s the reason why I ask these three questions over again, is that this is the seventh time I’ve asked,” Heller said.
He continued: “I asked you when you were in my office, and I had my staff to follow up on it, three times by text, and twice by phone. And we still can’t get the answer to these questions. And I’m not quite sure with two weeks – well, your own comments were that you guys had responded to 5,000 pages. Five thousand pages of questions asked. Why were these three questions not asked if there were 5,000 pages that you answered?”
Mnuchin apologized, saying his staff had not informed him of Heller’s questions, adding that he is “responding to a lot of other information.”
“I do recall you asking them in your office, and there’s no excuse they haven’t been answered,” Mnuchin said.
During the next round of questioning, Mnuchin again apologized for not answering the questions, saying he “read [his] staff the riot act.”
Heller wasn’t the only lawmaker critical of Mnuchin’s stewardship of OneWest.
Sen. Sherrod Brown asked a series of aggressive rapid-fire questions during his speaking period, pressing Mnuchin on why OneWest’s foreclosure on military families and its attempt to block a California investigation into its practices.
“Is it true that OneWest foreclosed on 60,000 families nationwide and denied three-fourths of mortgage modification applications?” Brown asked.
“I am not aware of that, I know they’ve objected -,” Mnuchin said.
“Well they did,” Brown interjected.
“If you know they did, then why are you asking?” Mnuchin asked in return.
“Because I want to hear it from you,” Brown replied. “I’m going to keep interrupting, because we don’t have a lot of time. I’m sorry if you see that as rude, but it’s the people’s business.”
Though the hedge fund manager said he was “proud” of his business, he blamed both federal regulations for forcing him to foreclose on homeowners, as well as the bad loans themselves.