US House panel subpoenas former Ex-Im official

WASHINGTON, July 24 Thu Jul 24, 2014 7:11pm EDT

WASHINGTON, July 24 (Reuters) - A U.S. House of Representatives panel said on Thursday it had subpoenaed a former Export-Import Bank official to appear at a hearing next week on allegations of corrupt activity at the agency.

The House Oversight Committee said it would meet on Tuesday to examine the allegations and evaluate the ethics program at the bank, which is grappling with reports of improper behavior even as it tries to convince lawmakers to renew its charter.

The House panel said it subpoenaed Johnny Gutierrez to appear at the hearing. Oversight Committee spokeswoman Becca Glover Watkins said he was a former Ex-Im Bank official.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Gutierrez was being investigated for allegedly accepting payments from a company that sought financing from the bank. Gutierrez's lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

Ex-Im Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg is also scheduled to be at the hearing, the oversight panel said. An Ex-Im Bank spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

"Congress needs to know exactly what occurred in this corruption scheme," said Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican who heads the Oversight Committee.

The Ex-Im Bank provides loans, loan guarantees and credit insurance to help private companies export goods overseas. Its biggest beneficiaries are companies such as Boeing and Caterpillar, but smaller exporters also receive financing.

The bank's charter is set to expire at the end of September. Many conservatives in Congress would like to end the bank, which is a federal government agency. The lawmakers say its services should be provided by the private sector.

Supporters argue that the bank's financial backing is critical for U.S. businesses and that letting its charter expire would cost American jobs.

Meanwhile, the bank has been grappling with accusations that some officials took cash payments or other gifts or improperly helped particular companies win contracts. Issa said the hearing on Tuesday would look at what the bank is doing to change its culture.

He said the committee subpoenaed Gutierrez after he declined to appear voluntarily. (Reporting by Emily Stephenson; editing by Andrew Hay)

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