This story originally appeared on ProPublica.
Mother Jones - In recent years, OneWest [Bank] has foreclosed on at least 50,000 people, often in circumstances that consumer advocates say run counter to federal rules and common sense.
President-elect Donald Trump's nomination of Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary has prompted new scrutiny of OneWest's foreclosure practices. Mnuchin was the lead investor and chairman of the company during the years it ramped up its foreclosure efforts.
A 2012 report to Congress by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said that "vigorous enforcement is necessary to ensure that older homeowners are not defrauded of a lifetime of home equity."
ProPublica found numerous examples where [OneWest's Financial Freedom unit] had foreclosed for legally questionable reasons. The company served several other homeowners at their homes to let them know they were being sued for not occupying their homes. In Florida, a shortfall of only $0.27 led to a foreclosure attempt. In Atlanta, the company sought to foreclose on a widow after her husband's death, but backed down when a legal aid attorney sued, citing federal law that allowed the surviving spouse to remain in the home.
"It appears their business approach is scorched earth, in a way that doesn't serve communities, homeowners or the taxpayer," said Alys Cohen, a staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center in Washington D.C.
Since the financial crisis, OneWest, through Financial Freedom, has conducted a disproportionate number of the nation's reverse mortgage foreclosures. It was responsible for 16,200 foreclosures on government-backed reverse mortgages, or 39 percent of all foreclosures nationwide, from 2009 through late 2014, even though it only serviced about 17 percent of the loans, according to government data analyzed by the California Reinvestment Coalition, an advocacy group for low-income consumers. While some foreclosures were justified, legal aid attorneys say Financial Freedom has refused to work with borrowers in foreclosure to establish payment plans, in contrast with other servicers of reverse mortgages.