House committees demand info from Ex-Im bank
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[July 21, 2014]
By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of
Representatives committees demanded extensive information from the
Export-Import Bank on Thursday, including communications on reported
allegations of kickbacks there, as Congress grapples with whether to
reauthorize the bank's charter.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is
headed by Representative Darrell Issa and has broad investigative
powers, wrote to bank Chairman Fred Hochberg requesting documents on
allegations that four officials were suspended or removed as
investigators looked into charges of improper gifts and kickbacks.
"The committee is concerned that the breadth and seriousness of the
allegations may suggest a broader culture of corruption at the
Bank," the letter from Issa and Representative Jim Jordan said. They
said Hochberg described a confusing ethics oversight system in
recent testimony to lawmakers, compounding their concerns.
Issa's probe comes amid debates over the future of the bank, which
offers financing to foreign buyers of U.S. goods. Some major U.S.
companies like Boeing rely on the bank to help them compete in
international markets, but opponents say this promotes corporate
The 80-year-old bank will be forced to close unless Congress acts to
renew its charter by Sept. 30. Last year, its loans were behind
$37.4 billion of exports and 205,000 U.S. jobs.
A subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, which has
jurisdiction over the bank, also wrote Hochberg on Thursday asking
for interviews with three senior bank officials as well as minutes
of Ex-Im board meetings dating back to 2010.
Representative Patrick McHenry, the subcommittee chair, said the
information was needed as part of oversight and "to fully assess the
Bank's April 23rd re-authorization request."
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"We have received the letters and we are working to respond to the
committees," Matt Bevens, a spokesman for the bank, said.
Ex-Im's future has been thrown into doubt by attacks on the bank
from conservative lawmakers including the chairman of the financial
services committee, Representative Jeb Hensarling. They say the bank
favors multi-nationals at taxpayers' expense.
But Ex-Im's supporters say it also helps thousands of small U.S.
businesses with trade credit insurance or loan guarantees. They also
say other countries do more to support their exports.
The kickback allegations were first reported last month by The Wall
Street Journal. Hochberg told Congress recently that two of the four
employees in the article had left the bank and "if you are doing any
funny business, we are onto you."
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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