Senator Wyden Calls Mnuchin’s Grab of CARES Act Money “Sabotage.” Wyden Has a Right to be Suspicious of Mnuchin

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: November 30, 2020 ~

Senator Ron Wyden

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon

On November 25, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon Tweeted this: “The Trump administration is working harder to sabotage the economy and tie the Biden administration’s hands than it is to help working families survive a pandemic.” Wyden’s Tweet included a clip from a Bloomberg News article about how U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was planning to move $455 billion of CARES Act money to the General Fund of the Treasury so that the next Treasury Secretary in the Biden administration wouldn’t be able to use it to help bolster the economy.

That same Bloomberg News article included this sentence: “The money in question includes $429 billion that Mnuchin is clawing back from the Fed — which backed some of the central bank’s emergency lending facilities…” But as we detailed last Friday, 75 percent of the $454 billion that the CARES Act earmarked for emergency lending programs at the Fed to help struggling Americans and businesses survive the pandemic and support bank lending was never handed over to those programs by Mnuchin. All that the Fed has been reporting on its weekly financial statements for months is $114 billion from the Treasury for these programs. The breakdown of that $114 billion is as follows, according to the Fed’s weekly H.4.1 financial statements: (See Footnote 14 to Table 1.) We contacted the Fed via email and it stands by this breakdown:

$10 billion for the Commercial Paper Funding Facility; $37.5 billion for the Corporate Credit Facilities to buy up corporate bonds and Exchange Traded Funds; $37.5 billion for the Main Street Lending Facilities for loans to small and mid-size businesses; $17.5 billion for the Municipal Liquidity Facility to support municipal bond issuance; $10 billion for the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility; and $1.5 billion for the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility.

Under the structure of the Fed’s emergency lending programs, it has the ability to leverage the money coming from the Treasury by as much as 10-to-1 to expand its lending programs, if the situation warrants.

Wyden has very good reasons to be suspicious of Mnuchin’s motives. During Mnuchin’s Senate confirmation hearing on January 19, 2017, Wyden made the not-so-subtle suggestion that Mnuchin had falsified his financial disclosures to the Senate Committee. Wyden said this:

“Mr. Mnuchin, a month ago you signed documents and an affidavit that omitted the Cayman Island fund, almost $100 million of real estate, six shell companies and a hedge fund in Anguilla. This was not self-corrected. The only reason it came to light was my staff found it and told you it had to be corrected.”

Wyden further described Mnuchin’s unfitness for the job of U.S. Treasury Secretary as follows during the Senate confirmation hearing:

“Mr. Mnuchin’s career began in trading the financial products that brought on the housing crash and the Great Recession. After nearly two decades at Goldman Sachs, he left in 2002 and joined a hedge fund. In 2004, he spun off a hedge fund of his own, Dune Capital. It was only a few lackluster years before Dune began to wind down its investments in 2008.

“In early 2009, Mr. Mnuchin led a group of investors that purchased a bank called IndyMac, renaming it OneWest. OneWest was truly unique. While Mr. Mnuchin was CEO, the bank proved it could put more vulnerable people on the street faster than just about anybody else around.

“While he was CEO, a OneWest vice president admitted in a court proceeding to ‘robo-signing’ upward of 750 foreclosure documents a week. She spent less than 30 seconds on each, and in fact, she had shortened her signature to speed the process along. Investigations found that the bank frequently mishandled documents and skipped over reviewing them. All it took to plunge families into the nightmare of potentially losing their homes was 30 seconds of sloppy paperwork and a few haphazard signatures.

“These kinds of tactics were in use between 2009 and 2014, a period during which the bank foreclosed on more than 35,000 homes. ‘Widow foreclosures’ on reverse mortgages – OneWest did more of those than anybody else. The bank defends its record on loan modifications, but it was found guilty of an illegal practice known as ‘dual tracking.’ One bank department tells homeowners to stop making payments so they can pursue modification, while another department presses on and hurtles them into foreclosure anyway.”

Senator Jeff Merkley, also of Oregon, said this: “Donald Trump’s choice of Mnuchin is not only a fundamental betrayal of his promise to stand up to Wall Street — it is a punch in the gut to the thousands of American families who were thrown out of their homes by Mnuchin’s bank. The voices of these Americans should be heard loud and clear as the Senate examines his record and considers his nomination.”

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont made this statement prior to a full Senate vote on Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary:

“During the campaign, President-elect Donald Trump told the American people that he was going to change Washington by taking on Wall Street. But now that the election is over, Donald Trump’s choice for Treasury Secretary is the same old, same old Wall Street insider who made a fortune during the financial crisis as millions lost their homes. If confirmed, Steve Mnuchin would be the third Treasury Secretary to come from Goldman Sachs in the last 17 years. That is not the type of change that Donald Trump promised to bring to Washington — that is hypocrisy at its worst.”

Mnuchin was confirmed as U.S. Treasury Secretary by a slim margin of votes in the Senate, 53-47. All Republicans voted for Mnuchin while all Democrats voted against him, except for Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who voted yes.

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