WASHINGTON, June 23 The U.S. Export-Import Bank
has suspended or removed four officials as investigators look
into allegations of improper gifts and kickbacks as well as
efforts to direct contracts to favored businesses, the Wall
Street Journal reported on Monday.
The Ex-Im Bank, which helps finance exports of U.S. goods
and services, issued a statement declining comment on "personnel
matters" and saying it has "a comprehensive system of internal
The Journal, citing unidentified sources familiar with the
matter, reported that Johnny Gutierrez, an official in the Ex-Im
Bank's short-term trade finance division, allegedly took cash
payments in exchange for attempting to assist a Florida company
in getting federal financing to export construction equipment to
The newspaper quoted Douglas McNabb, Gutierrez's lawyer, as
confirming that Gutierrez was placed on leave after an
investigation by the agency's inspector general, but said he
declined to comment on details of the probe.
Two of the other officials were being investigated over
allegations of improperly awarding contracts while the third was
being investigated over accusations of "accepting gifts on
behalf of a company seeking financing," the newspaper reported.
The report comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of the
Ex-Im Bank as U.S. lawmakers debate whether to reauthorize the
80-year-old agency. The newly elected No. 2 Republican in the
House of Representatives said on Sunday he opposed renewing its
"The Export-Import Bank has zero tolerance for waste, fraud
and abuse. Due to provisions of the Privacy Act, we are
prohibited from commenting on any specific personnel matters,"
Ex-Im Bank spokesman Matt Bevens said in a statement.
"That said, the Export-Import Bank takes extremely seriously
its commitment to taxpayers and its mission to support U.S.
jobs. The Bank takes thorough and immediate action when any hint
of misconduct or fraud is detected by the safeguards we have in
place, including working closely with our Inspector General,"
The Ex-Im Bank statement said it operates a confidential
fraud, waste and abuse hot line to allow anonymous reporting and
that its management "acts quickly to enforce and prosecute
Representative Kevin McCarthy, the incoming House majority
leader, said on Sunday the bank's role should be taken over by
the private sector. Asked if he would allow the bank's charter
to expire at the end of September, McCarthy said: "Yes, because
it's something that the private sector can be able to do."
The chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Jeb
Hensarling, previously called on fellow Republicans to oppose
renewing the charter. He said the bank helps some companies at
the expense of others.
Hensarling's spokesman, David Popp, issued a statement
saying Fred Hochberg, chairman and president of the
Export-Import Bank, "should come fully prepared to discuss all
details surrounding these troubling accusations" during a
hearing before the committee on Wednesday.
Scrapping the bank would be a blow to Boeing Co,
Caterpillar Inc, General Electric Co and other
U.S. companies that rely on Ex-Im financing to make sales in
export markets where commercial lending is scarce.
(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)