End the Export-Import Bank
How can we criticize countries that distort markets when our reaction is to mimic them in the name of “leveling the playing field?” We should be the country that says “we do things right and fair, and that’s why we succeed.” America is best when we lead, not when we follow.
Recently, the Export-Import Bank was set on a path to wind down.
Under legislation signed by President Barack Obama in 2012, the treasury secretary was required to pursue negotiations “to substantially reduce, with the ultimate goal of eliminating, subsidized export financing programs and other forms of export subsidies,” such as the Ex-Im Bank.
Though the Ex-Im Bank’s charter expired this summer, supporters of the bank are asking for Congress to restart it, despite the fact that required reforms were never pursued.
The Export-Import Bank has provided loans, loan guarantees and export credit insurance to foreign clients of some of America’s largest corporations. These benefits are backed by you, the American taxpayer.
But at what price?
More articles on the Export-Import Bank
WSJ: Where is the justice in risking the taxes of average Americans to fatten the coffers of a moneyed elite?
Commercial activities today are increasingly driven neither by customer wants nor by entrepreneurial judgments but by bureaucratic directives and political preferences. Businesses, workers, investors and consumers, the notion goes, don’t have the knowledge to make rational choices on their own. Instead, government experts—typically unelected and unaccountable—are necessary to push the economy toward politically favored and less risky outcomes.
But when governments decide who wins and loses, success increasingly depends less on how hard you work and more on who you know in Washington. And big business is often all too willing to enter into alliances with big government to play this game.
The results? Stunted economic growth, anti-competitive directives pushed by special interests at the expense of the commonweal, and corrosive public cynicism.Washington Examiner: End Ex-Im Bank, the government's Enron
The bank has simply proven itself incapable of reform. Congress, the General Accountability Office and the bank's own inspector general have made numerous recommendations to "fix" Ex-Im, which its officials have boldly ignored. After years of repeated warnings, the bank has made clear that they have no interest in changing their troubling and irresponsible practices — and they are putting taxpayers at risk in the process.
According to Ex-Im's IG, the bank does not subject borrowers to the same level of scrutiny that private lenders do, and it has no robust and systematic process for keeping an eye on borrowers. The standards for underwriting loans are also decentralized and potentially subjective, as well. In 2010, the Bank's board of directors authorized certain officials to approve loan applications under $10 million, raising concern that the bank was no longer doing its due diligence or applying a uniform standard for loan approval. The IG recommended Ex-Im improve its credit underwriting process, but there is no indication these changes have been implemented.
Ex-Im has also ignored recommendations to manage its risk, as wise private investors do, by diversifying its portfolio geographically and by sector. As a result, its portfolio is too heavily concentrated in a handful of industries. If a sector of the economy heavily subsidized by Ex-Im — like aerospace, for example — were to suffer, taxpayers could be on the hook for billions of dollars in bad loans.
We have paid for such bad decisions before. The painful lessons of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should not go unheeded. Congress made it clear that Ex-Im needs to reform the way it does business, but Ex-Im has made it clear it will not change. Ex-Im is at risk of becoming another Enron — that legendary corporate example of mismanagement and misconduct, which itself once benefited from Ex-Im financing.Justice Department: Former Loan Officer at Export-Import Bank Pleads Guilty to Accepting Over $78,000 in Bribes
A former loan officer at the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) pleaded guilty in federal court today for accepting more than $78,000 in bribes in return for recommending the approval of unqualified loan applications to the bank, among other misconduct.
According to his plea agreement, Gutierrez was a loan officer for the Ex-Im Bank based in Washington, D.C. The Ex-Im Bank is the federal agency responsible for promoting the export of U.S. goods to foreign countries through the guarantee of domestic loans to foreign buyers. As an Ex-Im Bank loan officer, Gutierrez was responsible for conducting credit underwriting reviews for companies and lenders submitting financing applications to the Ex-Im Bank.
As part of his guilty plea, Gutierrez admitted that on 19 separate occasions between June 2006 and December 2013, he accepted bribes totaling more than $78,000 in return for recommending the approval of unqualified loan applications and improperly expediting other applications.
Specifically, Gutierrez admitted that he intentionally ignored the fact that one company had previously defaulted in 10 previous transactions guaranteed by the bank, causing the Ex-Im Bank to lose almost $20 million. Despite these defaults, Gutierrez accepted bribes to continue to recommend the approval of the company’s loan applications. Additionally, Gutierrez admitted that he accepted bribes from a financing broker to expedite applications submitted by the broker, and that he privately assisted the broker to improve its applications before submission to the bank. In exchange, Gutierrez was to receive half of the broker’s profit on the transactions financed by the bank. Further, Gutierrez disclosed to the broker inside information about financing applications submitted to the Ex-Im Bank, so that the broker could solicit the applicants as clients.Washington Examiner: Export-Import Bank costs taxpayers $2 billion a decade
“The Ex-Im Bank doesn't cost the American taxpayer a dime,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce posted on Twitter on May 20. Ex-Im “pays for itself and makes a profit,” Ex-Im President Fred Hochberg likes to say.