Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the ranking member of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, is asking FBI director James Comey for information on Relativity Media and its ties to Steven Mnuchin, the movie financier and banking executive who is President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of the treasury.
In a press release, Brown referred to an FBI investigation into Relativity, noting that when nonprofit watchdog group MuckRock first sought answers to questions about Mnuchin and the film company, the Freedom of Information Act request was denied. According to Brown, the FBI cited concerns that the disclosure of such information would “interfere with enforcement proceedings.”
Mnuchin was a member of Relativity’s board and once served as its co-chairman. He stayed in that post for seven months, departing two months before Relativity declared bankruptcy in July, 2015. Variety‘s James Rainey reported that just weeks before the bankruptcy filing, the bank that Mnuchin had headed, OneWest Bank of Pasadena, was allowed to take $50 million from the studio’s account. The funds were owed to OneWest for loans that the bank made to Relativity, but it left hard feelings among some creditors who did not get paid.
Brown also is a member of the Senate finance committee, which will hold a confirmation hearing on Mnuchin’s nomination on Thursday.
“If Mr. Mnuchin is to be confirmed for that position, we must ensure that his ability to do the job of overseeing American finance and trade in a manner befitting that office is in no way compromised,” Brown wrote. “I ask that you release all relevant information on Relativity Media and Mr. Mnuchin to MuckRock and the U.S. Senate as it considers Mr. Mnuchin’s nomination.”
Brown’s full letter is below:
The full text of the Senator’s letter follows:
Dear Director Comey:
Subject: FOIA Appeal
I am writing regarding a letter the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sent on December 7, 2016 related to a MuckRock request for information on several of President-elect Trump’s nominees (FOIPA Request No.: 1361974-000). In this letter the FBI denied the request for information on Relativity Media, using exemption 7(A) of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 U.S. Code § 552(b)(7)(A), citing concerns that disclosure of the information could “interfere with enforcement proceedings.”
Considering U.S. Secretary of the Treasury-designee Steven Mnuchin’s ties to Relativity Media, including his large investment in the company, the financial relationship between OneWest Bank and Relativity Media, and Mr. Mnuchin’s time as co-Chairman of Relativity’s Board, I believe it is in the public’s interest for you to release this information.
The job of Secretary of the Treasury is among our nation’s most important. If Mr. Mnuchin is to be confirmed for that position, we must ensure that his ability to do the job of overseeing American finance and trade in a manner befitting that office is in no way compromised. I ask that you release all relevant information on Relativity Media and Mr. Mnuchin to MuckRock and the U.S. Senate as it considers Mr. Mnuchin’s nomination.