Georgieva keeps job as IMF board backs her after review of data-rigging claims

Ethics dispute was the greatest challenge to the Washington-lender's reputation since 2011 when Dominique Strauss-Kahn was forced to step down

International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva. Photo: AFP
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The International Monetary Fund's executive board said it has 'confidence' in and backs its managing director Kristalina Georgieva after concluding its review of an investigation into allegations that she pressured World Bank staff to alter data in favour of countries in her previous role as chief executive of the World Bank.

"The executive board considered that the information presented in the course of its review did not conclusively demonstrate that the managing director played an improper role regarding the Doing Business 2018 Report when she was chief executive of the World Bank," the IMF said in a statement late on Monday. "Having looked at all the evidence presented, the executive board reaffirms its full confidence in the managing director’s leadership and ability to continue to effectively carry out her duties."

The fund's 24-member board that represent its 190 member states, issued the statement after holding its eight meeting on Monday and concluding its review of the investigation conducted by law firm WilmerHale.

The data-rigging claims scandal was the most serious challenge to the Washington-lender's reputation since Dominique Strauss-Kahn was forced to step down as head of the fund in 2011 amid accusations he had sexually attacked a housekeeper in a New York City Midtown hotel room. He was arrested but the charges against him were subsequently dropped because of doubts about his accuser's credibility. A separate civil suit was settled later between Mr Strauss-Kahn and his accuser, for an undisclosed amount.

As part of its review, the IMF's board had met with WilmerHale and Ms Georgiev last week. The fund said its acknowledges that the World Bank’s investigation of potential World Bank staff misconduct in the Doing Business report matter is ongoing.

The IMF's board said it "reiterates its own commitment to supporting the managing director in maintaining the highest standards of governance and integrity in the data, research, and operations of the IMF and has confidence in the impartiality and analytical excellence of IMF staff and in the IMF’s robust and effective channels for complaint, dissent, and accountability".

It said it plans to meet to consider possible additional steps that ensure the "strength of institutional safeguards in these areas".

In 2003, the World Bank launched its Doing Business rankings with the objective of measuring business regulations that enhance or constrain commerce in 190 countries. After data irregularities were reported internally in the 2018 and 2020 surveys, World Bank management discontinued the next Doing Business report and initiated a series of reviews and audits of the report and its methodology.

Ms Georgieva, 68, became head of the IMF in 2019 as her predecessor Christine Lagarde left to become president of the European Central Bank. She has refuted the allegations that she pressured World Bank staff to adjust data while she was was chief executive there.

In a letter to the IMF's board last week, Lanny Breuer, a lawyer with Covington & Burling representing Ms Georgieva, said WilmerHale violated World Bank staff rules because it did not inform her that she was a subject of a probe and as such didn't allow her to respond to its findings.

Mr Breuer also said WilmerHale did not include the full statements Ms Georgieva made in her interview with the investigating law firm and that her comments were “linked together inappropriately to support a false narrative".

Mr Breuer, who previously defended President Bill Clinton during his impeachment proceedings in the 1990s, also cited other elements in the WilmerHale investigation that he said pointed to “serious flaws” in the probe that undermine its credibility and findings.

“I was not allowed to read and respond to references that directly relate to my actions in the report before it was made final and publicly released. I was also not given an opportunity to present information regarding its conclusions or challenge the fact that some of my statements were ignored or taken out of context,” Ms Georgieva said in a statement last week.

Ms Georgieva said the findings of the investigation by WilmerHale do “not accurately characterise” her actions with respect to the World Bank survey nor portray her character or the way she conducted herself through her professional career.

The IMF and the World Bank hold their annual meetings this week.

Updated: October 12, 2021, 6:19 AM