The president of the Export Import Bank on Tuesday doubled down in defense of his embattled organization, saying it has a long history of good behavior despite a story last month alleging that four officials were engaged in a kickback scheme.
One of those employees, Johnny Gutierrez, declined the opportunity to testify on Tuesday at a House panel hearing, invoking his Fifth Amendment rights.
“I've been at the bank since 2009 — there was nothing in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012,” Hochberg said during his testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on economic growth, job creation and regulatory affairs. “We've had a number of year where there's been no allegations and no indictments.”
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Ex-Im investigated four officials for alleged kickbacks and cronyism regarding deals with the bank's financing.
“We don't know if they've committed a wrongdoing,” Hochberg said. “They have not been indicted. They have not gone to court.”
He said he was “proud of our agency and our ethics department, which acted immediately.”
Congress must reauthorize Ex-Im before Sept. 30 or it will shut down. It's become a wedge issue for Republicans, with Tea Partiers denouncing it as a form of “corporate welfare” designed to help corporations like Boeing and Caterpillar with loans and loan guarantees.
Most Democrats and centrist Republicans support the bank, saying it helps U.S. companies make inroads overseas in emerging markets while helping to sustain domestic jobs.
Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) criticized the bank saying that “apparently, the bank employees need regular reminders that it is wrong to accept bribes.”
“The allegations are appalling, but they are hardly shocking,” Jordan said of the Journal story. “The sole purpose of the Ex-Im Bank is to hand out billions of dollars to private companies in the form of direct loans and loan guarantees and credit insurance.”
In Hochberg's submitted testimony, he said he was “shocked and dismayed” at the allegations.
“Furthermore, because of our ethical culture, there was a wide-spread shock, disappointment, and dismay at the article from the employees at Ex-Im Bank who work hard every day on behalf of the taxpayers and U.S. exporters,” Hochberg said in his submitted testimony.
He added: “Simply put, the Bank expects the highest ethical standards from all employees.”