Steven Terner Mnuchin was confirmed as Treasury Secretary by a 53-47 Senate vote on February 13, 2017, despite a long and contentious confirmation hearing before the finance committee the previous month. During the hearing Democrats questioned Mnuchin's credibility for failing to disclose correctly all of his assets and his role in Cayman Islands-based Dune Capital.
Mnuchin, 53, is a second-generation Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) partner, veteran of multiple hedge funds, Hollywood producer and one-time consumer bank owner. He became Trump's campaign finance chair in May 2016 and helped to craft the president's tax proposals.
He graduated from Yale and began his career at Salomon Brothers. He joined Goldman Sachs, where his father had been a partner, in 1985 and worked his way up to head the bank's mortgage department. A 2012 Bloomberg profile described Mnuchin as "front and center" for the development of financial instruments such as collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps. He became Goldman's chief information officer in 1999.
He left the bank three years later to work at a hedge fund run by his Yale roommate, Edward Lampert, who would take over as the CEO of Sears Holding Corp. (SHLD) in 2013. Mnuchin left to found another fund with George Soros in 2003; a year later he started Dune Capital – reportedly named for the scenery at his home in the Hamptons – with two other Goldman alums.
Dune has become a Hollywood fixture, earning Mnuchin producer credits on a long list of blockbusters, including "Avatar," "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "American Sniper."
Mnuchin is equally famous for another venture he undertook after leaving Goldman Sachs. When the housing bubble popped, he stepped in to buy a failed California bank, IndyMac, for $1.55 billion in partnership with George Soros and other private equity investors. The transaction included a loss-sharing agreement with the FDIC, which had taken over the bank. Mnuchin and his partners changed IndyMac's name to OneWest and initiated a string of foreclosures that drew populist ire and made national headlines. At one point protesters appeared in front of his $26 million Bel Air home. OneWest was sold to CIT Group Inc. (CIT) for $3.4 billion in 2014.
If he is confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, Mnuchin will have broad powers to roll back Barack Obama's sanctions relief for Iran and Cuba. He will have a key role in formulating tax policy and managing the nearly-$20.0 trillion national debt. Mnuchin has promised the "largest tax change since Reagan," saying the corporate rate should fall from 35% to 15%. In contrast to Reagan, and contrary to independent analyses, he has said the Trump administration will not cut taxes for the wealthiest.
Mnuchin embodies many of 2016 campaign's ironies. When Trump picked up Bernie Sanders' line of attack against Clinton, accusing her of being too cozy with Wall Street in general and Goldman Sachs in particular, Mnuchin took the soundbyte on the trail. He told Bloomberg in August that Clinton had "obviously raised a ton of money in speaking fees, in other things, from special interest groups" (Goldman paid her $675,00 in speaking fees in 2013). Mnuchin had donated to Clinton's campaigns in the past – as Trump had – including her 2007 primary run. (When she lost Mnuchin switched his support to Obama.) Despite pledges to "drain the swamp," Trump has kept to a familiar pattern in choosing Mnuchin: he will be the third Goldman alum to head the Treasury in as many decades.