Bank chief slaps down House GOP request

Export-Import President Fred Hochberg has rebuffed a request from the House Financial Services Committee for transcribed interviews with top bank officials.

In a letter obtained by The Hill, Hochberg told Republicans on the committee he still has no plans to allow his staff to sit down for interviews with House staffers as Congress battles over the renewal of the bank’s charter. [READ EX-IM CHIEF'S LETTER TO HOUSE GOP].

"We continue to believe that a briefing by appropriate officials is preferable and consistent with common oversight practice, as opposed to the inherently adversarial nature of transcribed interviews," Hochberg wrote in the letter.

Hochberg also responded to criticism that most of the documents he submitted to the committee's investigators were redacted, arguing that "the redacted text pertains to confidential" information.

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The letter was sent in response to a request from Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the House Financial Services Committee chairman who has been seeking more information about the bank.

Hensarling, who opposes the bank's reauthorization, along with Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who heads the House Financial Services subcommittee on investigations, want Hochberg to let committee investigators transcribe interviews with top Ex-Im Bank officials.

When Hochberg declined the invitation last month, Hensarling and McHenry threatened to work with the House Oversight Committee to subpoena Ex-Im officials.

Hensarling criticized Hochberg's response in a statement to The Hill, saying he's seen "more redactions than answers."

"Ex-Im's unjustified attempts at secrecy — coming as the Bank seeks its reauthorization and the expansion of its lending authority — obstructs this Committee's ability to conduct even the most basic oversight at a critical time," Hensarling said.

Hochberg wrote in the letter that he is "prepared to schedule a briefing" with committee staffers and the Ex-Im officials: Charles J. Hall, the executive vice president and chief risk officer, David M. Sena, the chief financial officer, and Angela Mariana Freyre, the senior vice president and general counsel.

Congress must reauthorize Ex-Im’s charter by Sept. 30 or the bank will shut down.

Hensarling and other leading conservatives oppose the bank because they say it's "corporate welfare" designed to prop up big businesses such as Boeing.

More centrist Republicans and most Democrats support the bank's reauthorization, arguing it supports U.S. jobs while allowing American businesses to forge into emerging markets.

A senior aide to a Democratic member of the House Financial Services Committee criticized Hensarling, saying he's "overreaching" and making requests that are "virtually impossible to satisfy."

"Let's be clear — Chairman Hensarling's goal is to shut down the Export-Import Bank," the Democratic aide said. "To further that goal, he and Mr. McHenry are inundating the bank with broad, onerous and overreaching requests for information ... and when the Ex-Im doesn’t give them exactly what they’ve asked for, they’ll stand up and declare they are ‘not satisfied.’ "