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Congress launches Ex-Im Bank graft probes

Representative Darrell IssaTwo committees from the U.S. House of Representatives sent demands for information to the Export-Import Bank Thursday, asking for material about alleged kickbacks.

Four officials of the Ex-Im were removed or suspended during an investigation of alleged improper gifts and kickbacks, according to reports in late June.

The government-funded Ex-Im Bank extends financing to overseas buyers of U.S. goods and services.

The bank hasn't made any public comments about the personnel moves or its internal investigation.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, headed by Representative Darrell Issa, asked Ex-Im chair Fred Hochberg for documents about the graft allegations.

The Wall Street Journal first reported last month that Johnny Gutierrez, an official in the Ex-Im Bank's short-term trade finance division, allegedly took cash payments to help a Florida company obtain federal financing to export construction equipment to Latin America.

Gutierrez's lawyer confirmed that he's on leave after an investigation by the bank's inspector general.

"The committee is concerned that the breadth and seriousness of the allegations may suggest a broader culture of corruption at the Bank," Issa and Representative Jim Jordan said in their letter.

Before news broke about the kickback allegations, some Republican congressmen had proposed not renewing the Ex-Im Bank's charter.

The government-funded Ex-Im Bank extends financing to overseas buyers of U.S. goods and services.

"The 80-year-old bank will be forced to close unless Congress acts to renew its charter by September 30," Reuters said.

Last year, the bank authorized $27 billion to support an estimated $37.4 billion in U.S. export sales.

Another letter from a subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee asked Hochberg Thursday to arrange interviews with three senior bank officials and provide minutes of Ex-Im board meetings dating back to 2010, Reuters said.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.