Who is Joseph Otting?

PUBLISHED MARCH 22, 2017 21:33

In response to media reports suggesting that the Joseph Otting, the former CEO of OneWest Bank, may be nominated for the Comptroller of the Currency, Paulina Gonzalez, executive director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, released this statement today:

“The California Reinvestment Coalition is deeply concerned about reports that Joseph Otting is being considered for what is one of the most important roles in the banking world. If Mr. Otting were to be nominated, it would be another example of this administration’s preference for filling key regulatory posts with bankers and Wall Street executives with problematic track records, including Mr. Otting’s former boss, Steve Mnuchin.

While CEO at OneWest Bank, Mr. Otting worked against the interests of Main Street homeowners, small business owners, and seniors. His leadership at the bank resulted in a redlining complaint that our nonprofit filed against the bank; investigations by HUD’s Office of Inspector General and the New York Attorney General into reverse mortgage problems at the bank’s reverse mortgage subsidiary; subsequent disclosures about material weaknesses with internal controls at that same subsidiary; and one of the most problematic foreclosure records of all the banks in California.

The Los Angeles Times labeled OneWest Bank a “laggard” after analyzing its small businesses lending record, citing its preference for private equity deals, and also noted the bank’s higher than average amount of insider loans.

On the consumer side, the bank was roughly nine times as likely to foreclose on a homeowner living in a community of color as compared to originating a mortgage to a homeowner in a community of color. While serving as CEO of OneWest, Mr. Otting also served as chair of the California Chamber of Commerce, which labeled a state bill to protect widows and widowers from needless foreclosure as a “jobs killer” in 2015.

In trying to secure approval for OneWest’s merger with CIT Group, Mr. Otting infamously created an online petition urging Federal Reserve Chair Yellen to not hold a hearing on the proposed merger. Mr. Otting then asked his friends on Wall Street to sign it. In Mr. Otting’s judgment, his friends on Wall Street, thousands of miles away, were somehow better situated to provide input on a California bank merger than the community members who were actually going to be impacted by the merger.

The Comptroller of the Currency is one of the most important jobs in the nation for ensuring that large banks (including Mr. Otting’s former employer) are well-capitalized, well-regulated, and don’t engage in illegal or harmful practices against their customers. If this nomination were to become a reality, we imagine the Senate Banking Committee will have a great deal of questions about the many problems Mr. Otting had running one bank in Southern California, and whether he’s truly qualified to serve as a regulator for over 1,400 banks.”

CRC Responds to Steve Mnuchin’s Confirmation as Treasury Secretary

San Francisco, CA—February 13, 2017 This evening, in the face of widespread opposition from community groups across the country, and more than 850,000 Americans who opposed his nomination, Steve Mnuchin, the former CEO of OneWest Bank, and a Goldman Sachs alum, was narrowly confirmed by a vote of 53 to 47 to be the nation’s next Treasury Secretary.

“Today, 53 GOP Senators voted for a man who took the homes of tens of thousands of Americans. The California Reinvestment Coalition, our members, allies and partners, and borrowers who lost their homes across the country waged a valiant effort as part of a larger resistance to President Trump’s Wall Street fueled takeover of Washington. We appreciate the Democratic Senators who held a forum to hear from homeowners across the US who were harmed by Mnuchin’s bank” comments Paulina Gonzalez, executive director of the California Reinvestment Coalition. “While we’re surprised and disappointed that senators would vote for him after he refused to provide honest answers, CRC, our members, and our allies aren’t going anywhere. We are ready to continue the fight against Wall Street greed.”

“Steve Mnuchin’s track record includes thousands of robo-signed foreclosures, hundreds of lawsuits, and a redlining complaint,” explains Sharon Kinlaw, executive director of the Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley. “At this point, there’s a lot of room for improvement. That being said, we’ll be watching closely to ring the alarm if he attempts to weaken laws like Dodd Frank or to undercut the CFPB’s important work protecting consumers.”

“There were nearly 8,000 OneWest foreclosures here in Los Angeles,” adds Isela Gracian, president of the East LA Community Corporation. “We are ready to ensure that he doesn’t continue to do harm to working class families and that the US economy serves all of us- not just Wall Street.”

Here’s 5 Lies Your Senator Would Have to Believe to Vote for Steve Mnuchin



1.Steve Mnuchin’s bank did not robo-sign important foreclosure and legal documents in order to speed up foreclosures against thousands of families.

Definitely ignore the following:

2011 consent order that Steve Mnuchin signed as Chairman of OneWest Bank where the bank agreed to stop robo-signing

July 2009 deposition of Erica Johnson Seck, OneWest Vice President, where she admitted to robo-signing about 750 documents a week (spending around 30 seconds on each document)

New analysis from Ohio: Columbus Dispatch: Trump treasury pick Mnuchin misled Senate on foreclosures, Ohio cases show,

New analysis from Maine: Portland Press Herald: Maine robo-signing scandal resurfaces with Treasury nomination

2) Steve did not want to foreclose on over 16,000 seniors and their families.

This might be a little hard to swallow, since his new found concern about foreclosing on seniors only appeared to surface in 2015 in a mysterious letter he apparently sent to HUD (has anybody seen this yet?), and since he’s been foreclosing on reverse mortgages since he bought OneWest and its reverse mortgage subsidiary in March 2009.

Definitely don’t read about Financial Freedom moving to foreclose on a 90 year old for “non-occupancy” when she actually did live in her home. Or this story about Myrtle Lewis, aged 103, in Texas: 103-Year-Old North Texas Woman Fights To Keep Her House

3) State attorney generals have “no business” investigating banks that are servicing loans in their states.

Definitely don’t read David Dayen’s article about this 2013 investigation by attorneys in California’s Attorney General office that found evidence of “widespread misconduct” at OneWest Bank: The Intercept: Treasury Nominee Steve Mnuchin’s Bank Accused of “Widespread Misconduct” in Leaked Memo

4) OneWest never cut corners, and it was ALWAYS the homeowner’s fault when a foreclosure happened.

Do NOT read about these 700 lawsuits or about settlements like this: OneWest Bank pays 7 figures in mortgage fraud case

Definitely don’t read the stories of Heather, Christina, Sylvia, or Colleen who traveled to Washington DC to share their stories.

Don’t believe them when they say that OneWest’s incompetence played an instrumental role in them losing or almost losing their homes. And, do NOT read Paulina Gonzalez’ testimony citing mounds of research about OneWest’s problematic track record in following state and federal foreclosure laws.

5) It’s all HUD’s fault Steve Mnuchin is foreclosing on seniors

This includes women like Colleen Ison Hodroff, who is 84, and facing foreclosure despite promises that were made to her and her now deceased husband when they obtained their reverse mortgage loan.

Definitely don’t watch this Rachel Maddow segment on Colleen’s story.

The sad irony with Colleen’s case is that her reverse mortgage loan is not a HUD-insured reverse mortgage loan.

In other words, Mnuchin’s firm had no HUD rules to follow in Colleen’s case, but still started the foreclosure process against her, two weeks after her husband passed away, despite the promises made to her and her husband that she could remain in her home if he were to pass away.

Cognitive Dissonance is great, isn’t it?

If you think all of these things should disqualify Steve Mnuchin, here’s a handy link you can click on in order to call your senators.

What are these 5 Senators Saying About Steve Mnuchin?


OneWest Protest Picture

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, (D-NH): “Steve Mnuchin ran a bank that’s been called a ‘foreclosure machine’ and has a long record of profiting off of a predatory lending practices while hard-working families paid the price,” Hassan said in a statement. “He even tried to mislead Congress about his troubling business practices and potential conflicts of interests throughout the hearing process. I cannot support a Treasury Secretary who would give corporate special interests free reign while jeopardizing the health and stability of our economy, and unfortunately it’s clear that’s exactly what Mr. Mnuchin would do.”  New Hampshire Union Leader 

Senator Angus King (I-Maine) “While I am not reflexively opposed to the former CEO of a large financial institution heading the Treasury Department, I want to know that that person will be a champion for hardworking families in Maine and across the country – and, unfortunately, I have not found anything in his record that would indicate that he would even try to defend, let alone champion, their financial interests. In fact, it seems that some of the lending practices conducted by his company – that he knew about – denied justice to Maine citizens who, in some cases, may have lost their homes as a result. It just doesn’t seem to me that Mr. Mnuchin would put hardworking people, homeowners, small businesses, rural economies, or any of the foundations of Maine’s economy first.” Press release 

Senator Cortez Masto (D-NV): “President Trump’s choice of Mr. Mnuchin is a slap in the face for Nevada families like Heather’s.  We cannot afford to return to the misguided policies that brought us to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and devastated our state’s economy. But that is exactly what we can expect if Steven Mnuchin is confirmed as President Trump’s Treasury Secretary. He will not have my vote.” Senator Cortez Masto OpEd: Why I can’t support ‘Foreclosure King’

Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-OR), ranking member of Senate Finance Committee:”When you read about the nominee for Treasury Secretary, given all the power that position holds, you hope not to see phrases like ‘foreclosure machine,’ ‘redlining,’ ‘offshore funds’ and ‘predatory lending,'” he said. USA Today: Trump’s Treasury nominee Steven Mnuchin denies he ran ‘foreclosure machine’

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) “Mnuchin profited off of kicking people out of their homes and then gave false testimony about his bank’s abusive practices,” Brown said in a statement today. “He cannot be trusted to make decisions about policies as personal to working Ohioans as their taxes and retirement.” Cleavland.com: Sen. Sherrod Brown, other Democrats halt vote on Trump nominees Steve Mnuchin, Tom Price

These 11 Facts Explain Why Steve Mnuchin is the Foreclosure King

Steve Mnuchin’s Foreclosure Machine

Background: IndyMac Bank failed in 2008, and was taken over by the FDIC. In March 2009, Steven Mnuchin and a group of wealthy investors bought Indymac from the FDIC.  As part of their purchase, they negotiated what would turn out to be a lucrative “shared loss” agreement from the FDIC that would help cover some of the bank’s costs and losses associated with foreclosing on homeowners. OneWest also negotiated shared loss agreements when it purchased First Federal Bank in 2009 and La Jolla Bank in 2010.

Allowing private equity investors to purchase a failed bank was unusual for the FDIC,[1] and it appears that Steve Mnuchin and his investors may have considered themselves “above the law,” especially when it came to following state laws like the California Homeowner Bill of Rights, which protects homeowners from predatory, illegal, and inept mortgage servicing.[2]

As part of the FDIC shared loss agreements, OneWest committed to modifying mortgages for homeowners when possible. However, a host of evidence suggests homeowners weren’t receiving modifications, and that OneWest cut corners in order to foreclose faster on families.[3]

1.Attorney General’s office investigation finds “widespread misconduct.” Most recently, in a 2013 memo, attorneys in the California Attorney General’s office explained their investigation had: “uncovered evidence suggestive of widespread misconduct.”


The memo alleges that OneWest rushed delinquent homeowners out of their homes by violating notice and waiting period statutes, illegally backdating key documents, and effectively gaming foreclosure auctions. Beyond the deeply concerning memo from the California Attorney General’s office, almost every single measurement of OneWest Bank’s servicing track record raises serious concerns about the bank, and whether its problematic approach to homeowners resulted in needless foreclosures against families.

2. Three out of Four Homeowners Denied Help Under HAMP: The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) was the federal government’s response to assisting homeowners facing foreclosure, and provided incentives to banks like OneWest to provide sustainable mortgage modifications to keep people in their home. However, 73% of HAMP applications by OneWest borrowers were denied.[4]  (note: CIT Group acquired OneWest Bank in August 2015, which is why it is listed under CIT Group below).

denied-hamp-mods3. Office of Thrift Supervision Consent Order: While federal bank regulators have thus far refused calls to release their specific findings from visits to OneWest and other mortgage servicers, the OneWest consent order hints at the “unsafe or unsound practices” regulators found, including that OneWest failed to “devote to its foreclosure processes adequate oversight, internal controls, policies, and procedures, compliance risk management, internal audit, third party management, and training;”[5]

consent-order4. CFPB Complaints: Consumers have filed over 1,500 complaints against OWB, and now CIT, with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with over 1400 of those complaints related to mortgages and loan modifications.

5. The Atlantic recently cited over 800 legal cases against OneWest.[6] OneWest has been sued multiple times and settled for improper servicing and foreclosure practices throughout the US. For example, in 2013, a San Luis Obispo couple received a million dollar plus settlement from OWB for foreclosing on them while they believed they were negotiating for a loan modification.


6. Surveys of Housing Counselors on the Front Lines of the Mortgage Meltdown California housing counselors consistently rated OneWest Banks as one of the most difficult servicers to work with, which may explain why over 36,000 homeowners lost their homes to OneWest foreclosures.

  • 30 housing counselors cited OneWest as the worst offender for not offering affordable loan modifications in July 2010.[7]
  • Half of responding counselors rated OneWest as “terrible,” in June 2011, a higher percentage than for all other eleven servicers considered.[8]
  • 95% of responding counselors said OWB was “terrible” or “bad,” in a Feb. 2012 survey, the second worst rating of all servicers considered.[9]

Counselor comments on trying to work with OneWest Bank[10]

  • Indymac has the worst performance in terms of foreclosure prevention. Very difficult to obtain any assistance. We had a client that was a victim of dual tracking and had their home foreclosed on.”
  • OneWest Bank/Indymac. They continue to request updated documents forever.”
  • “Indymac. Terrible customer service. Get the run around.”
  • “IndyMac. The average processing time is 12 months. They continually request updated documents and state that they never received docs. It’s so frustrating. Even when you escalate the file the same results occur, having to update docs continually for months on end.”
  • “Chase and OneWest (Indymac) are in a tie. Both entities string along homeowners with hopes of obtaining a modification and ultimately denying the hardship request due to ‘excessive forbearance.’ It almost appears to be done intentionally rather than being a capacity issue.”
  • “We are having a difficult time with Chase’s and IndyMac’s customer service representatives. We get an entirely different request each time we call even when the documents are in their system and they can see them. They are not able to explain what else is needed.”
  • “IndyMac/OneWest hardly ever gives loan mods.”
  • “Indymac Bank/OneWest, they constantly lose documents.”
  • “Indymac. Customer service reps are incompetent, oppositional, and frequently fail to take notes. I have established gross income figures three times in one case only to have the rep on the phone fail to find record in their notes of my previous phone call. Difficult specific RMA forms, and just plain nasty customer service rep attitudes.”
  • “Indymac is one of the worst. Not willing to work with the homeowner at all.”
  • “Indymac: Their ability to receive documents (unless it is online) is atrocious. They seemingly are always missing docs that are already there. Their online portal is limited in data transfer capacity. Some of their loans are insured, giving them no motive to modify.”

7. Third Worst Mortgage Servicer in US in 2010: In 2010, OneWest Bank was rated as the 3rd worst mortgage servicer in the country. In fact, the only servicers which ranked worse were Ocwen, which entered into multiple settlements with state and federal regulators, and American Home Mortgage Servicing Inc, which at the time was owned by another Trump nominee, Wilbur Ross.


David Lo, director of financial services at J.D. Power and Associates commented: “Homeowners navigating the loan modification process may be fearful of losing their home, and that can add significant fear and anxiety to an already stressful experience. As a result, it’s especially important that servicers make every effort to deliver on key best practices and make the experience as painless for customers as possible.” (emphasis added)

8. Fourth Worst Mortgage Servicer in 2012: OneWest remained one of the worst servicers according to JD Power and Associates (it wasn’t included in the 2011 rankings).


9. Wealth Gap Exacerbated by OneWest Bank: The foreclosure crisis widened the wealth gap between whites and people of color, with the ACLU estimating in a 2015 report: “For a typical black family, median wealth in 2031 will be almost $98,000 lower than it would have been without the Great Recession.”[11]

With 2/3 of OneWest’s foreclosures occurring in majority-minority communities, it was a major contributor to the widening of the wealth gap.

OneWest and Financial Freedom foreclosures in Ventura, LA, Orange, Riverside Counties

10. Evidence of Redlining: The bank wasn’t helping to build assets in communities of color by extending home loans. In 2014-2015, the bank only originated two mortgages to African American borrowers in its assessment areas, according to a redlining complaint filed against the bank. During Steve Mnuchin’s tenure at OneWest/CIT, the bank was 9x as likely to foreclose on families in neighborhoods of color as it was to make home loans (see table below).


 11. Financial Freedom and Foreclosures on Seniors: Steve Mnuchin’s purchase of the failed IndyMac Bank included Financial Freedom, a reverse mortgage company.  Financial Freedom continued originating reverse mortgage loans under Steve Mnuchin.

As part of the merger process with CIT Group and OneWest, multiple impacted homeowners reached out to the California Reinvestment Coalition to share their stories about the challenges they faced. In fact, many of these homeowners subsequently testified at a hearing held by the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency about their experiences.

Based on the stories CRC was hearing from Financial Freedom borrowers and their families, CRC filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, seeking data about Financial Freedom’s track record.

HUD disclosed that it would take over 100 years to compile complaint data and other questions about Financial Freedom, due to its antiquated technology, which is concerning to hear, since  HUD is the federal regulator that oversees the reverse mortgage industry.

HUD also disclosed troubling data, revealing that OneWest Bank was responsible for 39% of all reverse mortgage foreclosures from April 2009 to April 2016, despite only servicing what CRC estimated to be about 17% of the market. In order words, it appears OneWest was foreclosing at twice the rate one would expect, based on the size of the market it was servicing.


[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-03-22/from-indymac-to-onewest-steven-mnuchins-big-score

[2] http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/saving-the-homeowner-bill-of-rights/Content?oid=4132390

[3] While some have charged that the bank did this to hit the “shared loss” thresholds faster and receive reimbursement from the FDIC for foreclosures, that is outside the scope of this fact sheet.

[4] Of the 388,147 HAMP requests that CIT Bank (formerly OneWest) had received, it denied 73% of the requests (284,306 denials). https://www.treasury.gov/initiatives/financial-stability/reports/Documents/HAMP%20Application%20Activity%20by%20Servicer%20October%202016.pdf

[5] https://www.occ.gov/static/ots/misc-docs/consent-orders-97665.pdf

[6] https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/01/mnuchin-bank-misconduct/512228/




[10] Please note: All of these comments are from surveys conducted after April 2009, so while they say “IndyMac,” they are in fact OneWest.

[11] https://www.aclu.org/files/field_document/discrimlend_final.pdf

Steve Mnuchin Refused to Tell Senator Heller About the Number of Families He Foreclosed on in Nevada: But We Will


Last week at Steve Mnuchin’s confirmation hearing, Senator Dean Heller from Nevada had some tough questions for Steve Mnuchin about his bank’s track record of foreclosing on families in Nevada.

The day before, Heather McCreary, a resident of Sparks, Nevada, had shared her story about how she had jumped through all of OneWest’s hoops in order to apply for a loan modification- and had been approved.  However, OneWest later voided their modification because the McCrearys had sent in a personal check instead of certified funds. OneWest would subsequently deny their next two loan modification applications.

To translate into plain English: What should have been a simple fix with a phone call of a OneWest employee calling Heather to request a certified check instead of a personal check instead turned into a loan modification being denied and another Nevada family needlessly losing their home.

Senator Heller’s questions included:

  1. How many Nevada homes were in OneWest’s portfolio?    Mr. Mnuchin didn’t have an answer.
  2. How many Nevadans foreclose on while OneWest owned the bank? Mr. Mnuchin didn’t have an answer.
  3. How many Nevadans OneWest Bank provided assistance to through loan modifications?  Mr. Mnuchin didn’t have an answer.

Senator Heller demonstrated his frustration at having asked for this information seven different times from Mr. Mnuchin, and not getting an answer.

Senator Heller, here’s some answers for you, based on data that we obtained from PropertyRadar, analyzed by Urban Strategies Council.  And, for what it’s worth, we’ve also had a very hard time getting information from Mr. Mnuchin’s team.  When we asked about the shared loss agreement at a community meeting (where they had encouraged questions), Mr. Mnuchin refused to answer our question, which is why we had to use a Freedom of Information Act request to get it. The answer: As of December 2014, the FDIC had already paid out over $1 billion in shared loss payments to OneWest Bank, and estimated it would pay out an additional $1.4 billion before 2019. You can read more on our fact sheet: OneWest Shared Loss Agreements 

Total Foreclosures in Nevada:  3,686 (source: PropertyRadar data, analyzed by Urban Strategies Council)

Total loan modifications provided in Nevada:  In addition to Heather McCreary’s experience, there is a host of data suggesting that far fewer families got help from OneWest than they should have.


According to HAMP data, OneWest bank declined 73% of people who asked for a HAMP loan modification (HAMP was the federal government’s main response to helping homeowners avoid foreclosure- and yet, it wasn’t very helpful for families unlucky enough to have OneWest servicing their loans).

And while Mr. Mnuchin’s PR machine has proudly touted “extending” over 100,000 loan modifications, that’s only the first step.  In other words, “extending” a loan modification offer means nothing if the bank then loses the homeowner’s paperwork when they send it back to the bank, or if the bank denies the modification because the homeowner didn’t send certified funds.

In fact, according to a Reuters analysis: 

According to data from the Treasury’s Home Affordable Modification program, OneWest extended over 101,000 offers to modify loans to help reduce monthly payments. About 28,700 of these offers were converted to “permanent” modifications under the Obama administration program from 2009 to 2013.

So, in sum, Nevada homeowners with OneWest mortgages, like homeowners in other states, faced largely bank-created obstacles to saving their homes.

If this is Mr. Mnuchin’s track record overseeing a regional bank, we can see why Senator Heller has some serious reservations about putting him in charge at Treasury Secretary


Mr. Mnuchin’s Mortgage Marauders

How bad is Financial Freedom? Take a look at this analysis


By Mike Appleton, Weekend Contributor

“Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.”

-Ambrose Bierce, “The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary”

I have frequently criticized media coverage of legal issues. For example, news reports often attribute significance to orders on routine procedural motions that is wholly unwarranted. And even reporters with legal backgrounds are not clear and understandable in their explanation of court rulings to laypersons. So when I came across reports that Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin’s bank had filed a mortgage foreclosure action against a 90 year old Florida widow over 27 cents, I was skeptical.

But the story interested me because the subject of the suit resides in Polk County, only an hour’s drive from where I live. In addition, with the advent of electronic filing in court proceedings, I knew that I could access the court files online and review the actual record in the case. I…

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