Hedge fund manager and former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin confirmed to CNBC on Wednesday morning that President-elect Donald Trump has nominated him for the position of Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Trump’s choice of Mnuchin, 53, who served as the President-elect’s national finance chairman during his campaign, is considered controversial because Mnuchin has never worked in government and his roots in Wall Street would seem to conflict with Trump’s anti-financial industry sentiment during his campaign.
One area where he does agree with Trump, however, is the need for reduced regulation. Mnuchin laid out a number of his initiatives on CNBC’s Squawk Box, should the U.S. Senate confirm him as the 77th Treasury Secretary. One of those is to roll back the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which passed in 2010 and is considered by the Obama Administration to be one of its greatest achievements. In various speeches and interviews throughout his campaign and since his election, Trump has vowed to overhaul the controversial financial reform law.
“We (Mnuchin and Trump’s choice for head of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, also announced on Wednesday) have been in the business of regional banking, and we understand what it is to make loans,” Mnuchin told CNBC. “That’s the engine of growth to small- and medium-sized businesses. The number one problem with Dodd-Frank is it’s way too complicated and it cuts back lending. So we want to strip back parts of Dodd-Frank that prevent banks from lending, and that’ll be the number one priority on the regulatory side.”
Mnuchin told CNBC that the U.S. economy can sustain a growth level of between 3 and 4 percent. In fact, he called sustained economic growth “our most important priority.”
“It is absolutely critical for the country,” Mnuchin said. “We absolutely can have sustained growth at that level. To get there, our number one priority is tax reform. This will be the largest tax change since Reagan. We’ve talked about this during the campaign. Wilbur and I have worked very closely together on the campaign. We’re going to cut corporate taxes, which will bring huge amounts of jobs back to the United States. We’re going to get to 15 percent, and we’re going to bring a lot of cash back into the U.S.”
In an interview with Fox Business after the announcement of his nomination, Mnuchin said he believes that the controversial government conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should end and that the private market should have more of a share in the mortgage market.
“We will make sure that when they are restructured, they are absolutely safe and don’t get taken over again. But we’ve got to get them out of government control,” Mnuchin said, according to Bloomberg.
Mnuchin made his announcement on Wednesday morning that he intends to privatize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. By 11:05 a.m. EST on Wednesday, shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had soared by 30 percent, according to Fox Business.
"A resolution of the conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie appears likely with Mnuchin as Treasury secretary," says Tim Rood, Chairman of The Collingwood Group. “His experiences at Dune Capital, particularly the IndyMac/OneWest purchase and turn around, will most certainly influence his decision-making calculus.”
Five Star Institute President and CEO Ed Delgado said of the nomination of Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary: “I anticipate that with this new appointment, Treasury will continue to promote the department’s mission by encouraging a strong economy and creating economic growth and stability. As the economy further recovers from the Great Recession it is imperative that the housing industry and Treasury work in hand and hand to ensure housing and economic prosperity.”
Mnuchin left Goldman Sachs in 2002 after 17 years with the global investment banking firm to become vice chairman of hedge fund ESL, and he later became CEO of another hedge fund, SFM Capital Management. In 2009, Mnuchin and a group of investors purchased the failed Pasadena-based IndyMac bank from the FDIC for $1.5 billion after the mortgage meltdown and renamed the bank OneWest. In the years immediately following the crisis, OneWest's foreclosure practices generated considerable controversy, particularly in California.
Mnuchin’s hedge fund, Dune Capital Management, of which he currently serves as CEO, became involved in Hollywood motion pictures years ago, financing such box office hits as “X-Men” and “Avatar.”
“If he gets the post, Mnuchin will bring a lot of mortgage expertise to the Treasury Department,” says Rick Roque, President of Menlo. “He bought Indymac, renamed it OneWest and then sold that company to CIT Group in 2015. That kind of experience, in addition to his experience in sub-prime origination, retail origination, and correspondent channels will prove to be very valuable to the non-depository mortgage banking market.”
Click here to view the full transcript of Wednesday’s CNBC interview with Mnuchin and Ross.