Housing groups in California are ringing alarm bells over President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Treasury secretary, alleging that as chairman and CEO of Pasadena-based OneWest Bank, Steve Mnuchin presided over a bank that discriminated against minorities and foreclosed on tens of thousands of Californians.
Less than two weeks ago, the California Reinvestment Coalition, a housing advocacy group, and Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California filed a federal complaint alleging that under Mnuchin, OneWest Bank consistently violated the Fair Housing Act.
The complaint alleges that OneWest provided home loans to a disproportionately low number of minorities. It says that last year only 1.7 percent of OneWest's home loans went to African-American borrowers compared to 3.6 percent in the rest of the industry, and only 8.4 percent of mortgages went to Latino borrowers compared to 20.5 percent in the rest of the industry.
Of 74 OneWest branches across Southern California, none are in African-American communities, one is in an Asian-American community, and 11 are in Hispanic communities, according to the complaint.
OneWest also foreclosed on more than 36,000 Californians, mostly in minority communities under Mnuchin's watch, according to the coalition.
“The idea that he would be named to such an important position is of grave concern," said California Reinvestment Coalition Deputy Director Kevin Stein. "His work has resulted in hardship and destabilization of communities.”
Mnuchin served as chairman and CEO of OneWest until last year, when the bank merged with CIT in a $3.4 billion deal. He now serves on the CIT board. (CIT did not respond to KPCC's request for comment.)
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is reviewing the discrimination complaint.
"I’m not sure how long the process will take," said Stein. "I wish I knew, but I think it’s unlikely to be resolved before the president takes office and the Treasury secretary is put in place."
A HUD spokesman says the agency hasn’t decided if the investigation falls under HUD’s jurisdiction yet. That review typically takes 30 days, but lasts longer depending on the complexity of the case and the agency's workload.