NEW YORK — Newly-installed US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who will make his first international outing at the G20 finance ministers meeting Friday and Saturday, is a banker with an unusual resume.
Not quite a household name before being tapped for the Treasury post by President Donald Trump, Mnuchin, 54, came to Washington after a career in the private sector that took him from Wall Street to Hollywood.
When the meeting gets underway in Baden-Baden, Germany, Mnuchin will not yet have his full team in place, including David Malpass, a former official under presidents Reagan and Bush who is awaiting Senate confirmation as undersecretary for international affairs.
From a traditionally Democratic Jewish family in New York, the twice-divorced Mnuchin surprised his Wall Street and Hollywood associates in April when he became the financial director of President Donald Trump’s campaign.
It was all the more surprising since the Republican billionaire once sued a Mnuchin company over the financing of a Trump building in Chicago.
Trump’s incendiary campaign rhetoric against immigrants and free trade unsettled some in financial circles, who wondered if Mnuchin was committing professional suicide by associating himself with such a controversial figure.
In the hot seat
But the business press speculated that the father of three viewed heading up the US Treasury as the cherry on top of a career that has taken him through all the highest spheres of American power.
During confirmation hearings, where he was accompanied by his fiancee, the 36-year-old Scottish actress Louise Linton, the former Goldman banker found himself on the hot seat.
Some lawmakers were outraged by allegedly predatory lending and aggressive foreclosure practices at OneWest, the California bank he took over in the financial crisis.
He also found himself defending his previously undisclosed roles in offshore investment firms incorporated in Caribbean tax havens and the fact that he had not disclosed real estate holdings of about $100 million.
A product of the elite that Trump reviled on the campaign trail, Mnuchin has an impressive CV: a graduate of Yale, a Goldman Sachs banker for the better part of two decades, founder of an investment fund backed by George Soros and producer of blockbuster movies such as Avatar and Suicide Squad.
Mnuchin is the third Goldman banker to lead the Treasury since the 1990s. He also is among the half dozen officials with ties to the bank named to senior positions in the Trump administration.
In addition to Mnuchin, other former Goldman bankers now in the administration include Gary Cohn, Goldman’s former chief operating officer, the far-right White House adviser Stephen Bannon, and the recently nominated deputy Treasury secretary, James Donovan.
Trump’s pick to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, the white-collar attorney Jay Clayton, once advised Goldman Sachs on a major investment.
Goldman runs in the family. Mnuchin’s father, who owns a Manhattan art gallery, spent 35 years at the bank and his elder brother was once a vice president there.
And though he left the company in 2002, Mnuchin was present during the rise of the complex financial derivatives at the heart of the 2008 financial crisis and once described their creation as an “extremely positive development.”
Mnuchin in 2004 created the investment firm Dune Capital, which focuses on the entertainment industry.
But in the wake of the financial crisis, he returned to banking. He persuaded the billionaires Soros and John Paulson to bid on the assets of the failed California bank IndyMac, which collapsed with a portfolio of high-risk and so-called sub-prime loans.
To sweeten the deal, the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation agreed to absorb almost all the losses on part of IndyMac’s portfolio, according to Bloomberg.
Reborn as OneWest, the bank generated earnings partially through widespread home foreclosures, which prompted the websites Zero Hedge and IAmFacingForeclosure.com to accuse the bank of profiting by driving homeowners into foreclosure in order to collect loss-sharing payments from the FDIC.
Mnuchin has denied those charges. He and fellow investors sold OneWest in 2014 for $3.4 billion to CIT Group, where he joined the board.