Steven Mnuchin, a second-generation Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) partner and Hollywood fixture, confirmed on Wednesday morning a number of reports that he would be President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Secretary of the Treasury, a job currently held by Jack Lew. (See also, Confidence of America's Rich Grows Following Trump Win.)

Trump named Mnuchin as his campaign finance chair in May, a decision that raised some eyebrows due to his history of giving to Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton – who also received money from Trump during her tenure in the Senate. The disconnect appeared to grow wider when Trump picked up a line of attack initiated by Clinton's Democratic primary opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont who accused Clinton of being beholden to special interests, in particular Goldman Sachs, which paid her exorbitant fees for speaking engagements.

Mnuchin echoed this line of attack during the campaign, telling Bloomberg in August that Clinton "obviously raised a ton of money in speaking fees, in other things, from special interest groups," presumably referring to his former employer. He contrasted her campaign to Trump's, which "is focused on people who want to help rebuild the economy." (See also, Hillary Clinton's Wall Street Ties.)

Mnuchin earned his undergraduate degree at Yale, where he roomed with Sears holdings Corp.'s (SHLD) current CEO Edward Lampert. He went on to work at Salomon Brothers, then joined Goldman Sachs, where his father was a partner, in 1985. He headed the bank's mortgage department for a period, before moving on to the post of chief information officer in 1999.

He left Goldman three years later to work for Lampert's hedge fund. He started another fund with George Soros the following year, and another one – Dune Capital Management – the year after that. The fund has bankrolled a long list of Hollywood blockbusters, including most recently "Avatar," "American Sniper" and "Mad Max: Fury Road." 

During his stint at Dune Capital, Mnuchin took on a side project, buying up a bank that had been gutted by the mortgage crisis. Partnering with Soros and other investors, he bought California's IndyMac for $1.55 billion, including a loss-sharing agreement with the FDIC. The consortium renamed the bank OneWest and began foreclosing on borrowers, generating headlines for the perceived severity of its approach. Complaints alleged that the bank had acted improperly in resorting to foreclosure in some cases and that it had failed in its obligation to lend in minority neighborhoods. Occupy protestors briefly posted up in front of Mnuchin's house. OneWest was sold to CIT Group Inc. (CIT) for $3.4 billion in 2014. (See also, Too Good to Be True: The Fall of IndyMac.)

A Bloomberg profile from 2012 hinted at the irony of the situation: the former head of Goldman Sach's mortgage desk, who was "front and center" for the development of collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps, was profiting from the crisis' aftermath. In a Wednesday morning interview with CNBC, he said his purchase of IndyMac had "saved a lot of jobs" and that "all the loans we had to foreclose on we did not originate." He called the purchase "one of the most proud aspects of my career."

Policy Views

He told CNBC Wednesday morning that he would seek a cut in the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%, which he said would "bring huge amounts of jobs back to the United States" and help the country "get to sustained 3 to 4% GDP" growth. He promised the "largest tax change since Reagan," though he cautioned that, in contrast to Reagan, "there will be no absolute tax cut for the upper class" under the Trump administration. The Tax Foundation has estimated that the top 1% of earners could see their after-tax incomes rise by 10.2% to 19.9%, while the Tax Policy Center has put the figure at 14%. In response to a Tax Policy Center analysis that sees taxes rising for some middle class families, Mnuchin said, "We don't believe in that analysis. When we work with Congress and go through this, it will be very clear. This is a middle income tax cut." 

Regarding Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, whom Trump criticized on the campaign trail, Mnuchin told CNBC she had "done a good job" and declined to say whether she should finish her term. He said, "I think interest rates are going to stay relatively low for the next couple of years. We're in a period of time of low interest rates." He added that the Treasury will "look at potentially extending maturity of the debt." Asked if he would consider 50- or 100-year maturities, he said, "we'll take a look at everything."

Mnuchin expressed that he would like to "strip back parts of Dodd-Frank," saying the 2010 law regulating the financial industry is "way too complicated and cuts back lending." He identified the Volcker Rule in particular as a source of unneeded complexity. The rule aims to prevent banks from putting consumer deposits at risk, but according to Mnuchin, "people don't know how to interpret it." Shortly after winning the election, Trump promised to "dismantle" Dodd-Frank, which was passed without a single Republican vote in the House and only three in the Senate. 

As Treasury Secretary, Mnuchin will have significant leeway to roll back Obama's sanctions relief for Iran and Cuba. He did not address the issue in his interview Wednesday morning. (See also, U.S. Airlines Flying to Cuba Despite Trump Doubts.)

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