Long before he was Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin was a student at Yale University. He lived, at the time, in the former Taft Hotel in New Haven with two roommates. One of those was Eddie Lampert.
Lampert, of course, is the recently departed CEO of Sears Holdings, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday. And their close relationship could affect the pension plans of thousands of workers.
Mnuchin, who was also a board member at Sears from 2005 through December 2016, currently sits on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a group that hears arguments from companies to shut down their pension plans. Mnuchin has said he would recuse himself if such an application is filed by Sears, but that would leave just two board members to decide the fate of 20,000 people’s pensions—something that makes Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) very nervous, Bloomberg reports.
Meanwhile, Mnuchin’s old roommate is hardly walking away from Sears. His ESL Investments is still the majority owner of the retailer (as well as the landlord of many locations) and has shown continued interest in buying the Kenmore brand.
Lampert blames Sears’ retiree pensions for its current woes. Critics blame Lampert. Even President Donald Trump said the company had been “obviously improperly run for many years,” as Bloomberg reported.
Mnuchin was one of the people who ran it during that period. It’s unclear if Trump was aware of that when giving his comments.