As lawmakers debate whether to extend the life of the highly contested Export-Import Bank, the agency’s chief watchdog said today it’s likely more indictments could be issued as a result of more than 31 investigations into alleged fraud at the bank.
Michael McCarthy, the agency’s acting inspector general, made the comments during a joint hearing on the bank with the House Financial Services and Oversight and Government Reform Committees. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, questioned the bank’s watchdog on the indictment of former Ex-Im official Johnny Gutierrez, who allegedly accepted bribes from a Florida company in exchange for help securing taxpayer-backed financing.
“That is huge news,” Jordan told The Daily Signal. “With that kind of corruption going on, for [bank officials] to come in here and ask Congress to reauthorize them—that’s why we shouldn’t reauthorize, that and a host of other reasons. That’s a huge takeaway.”
This summer, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Gutierrez, who worked as a loan officer at Ex-Im, and three other employees, had been suspended for bribery and improperly awarding contracts during their tenure at the bank. Gutierrez was later placed on leave.
Yesterday, the Justice Department charged the former Ex-Im loan officer with bribery. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges Gutierrez accepted cash and other things 19 times from 2006 to 2013.
Jordan has previously pressed bank officials for the names of the other three employees, but his inquiries haven’t been satisfied.
In addition to Gutierrez’s case, there are 31 allegations of fraud currently being investigated by the Ex-Im’s inspector general. McCarthy told the panel of lawmakers it’s likely more indictments will be issued following the completion of those investigations.
“All we ask is, ‘Can you assure us that this is not going to happen anymore?’ And he not only couldn’t assure us of that, he said there may be future indictments,” said @Jim_Jordan.
“All we ask is, ‘Can you assure us that this is not going to happen anymore?’” Jordan said. “And he not only couldn’t assure us of that, he said there may be future indictments.”
Gutierrez appeared before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee for questioning last year, but invoked his Fifth Amendment right.
In addition to McCarthy, witnesses at today’s hearing included bank Chairman Fred Hochberg, Treasury Department Under Secretary for International Affairs Nathan Sheets, Ex-Im Assistant Inspector General Mark Thorum and Government Accountability Office Director of International Affairs and Trade Kimberly Gianopoulos.
Ex-Im is an 80-year-old agency that provides taxpayer-backed loans and loan guarantees to foreign countries and companies for the purchase of U.S. products. Last year, Congress extended the bank’s reauthorization through the end of June. Lawmakers are now debating whether the bank’s life should be extended or ended for good.
Supporters of Ex-Im argue the bank helps small businesses compete in the global market and creates jobs in the U.S. However, opponents believe the agency serves as an engine of cronyism and corporate welfare.
Last year, Congress extended Ex-Im’s authorization through the end of June. Lawmakers are currently debating whether to extend its charter or allow the bank’s life to end.
Watch Jordan question McCarthy beginning at 03:09:51.