Georgieva fights to keep IMF role, with decision expected ‘very soon’

Sunday, Oct 10, 2021

Washington: Embattled International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva was fighting for her professional life on Saturday as the institution´s Executive Board considers evidence she manipulated data in favor of China while in a senior role at the World Bank.

The board said after a meeting on Friday it will decide "very soon" whether she keeps her job, and could meet again on Saturday, a source close to the matter said on condition of anonymity.

The review pertains to an investigation by the law firm WilmerHale that found that during her time as World Bank CEO, Georgieva was among top officials who pressured staff into changing data to China´s benefit in the 2018 edition of its closely watched Doing Business report.

The board said it had made "significant progress" in its assessment of the case but agreed "to request more clarifying details with a view to very soon concluding its consideration of the matter."

Georgieva, 68, has won the support of France and other European countries, the anonymous source said. However, the United States -- a key member of the IMF -- has not yet stated its position on this controversy, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation. Time is of the essence with the IMF and the World Bank to begin their fall meetings on Monday.

"There is a review currently underway with the IMF Board, and Treasury has pushed for a thorough and fair accounting of all the facts," said US Treasury spokeswoman Alexandra LaManna. "Our primary responsibility is to uphold the integrity of international financial institutions."

- ´Expeditious resolution´ -

Georgieva, a Bulgarian national and economist by training, spoke to the IMF board on Wednesday.

She has repeatedly denied the report´s conclusions, and on Thursday released a letter from her attorney to the board objecting to WilmerHale´s findings, as well as her 12-page testimony to the 24 board members.

"I am pleased that I finally had the opportunity to explain to the IMF Board my role in the Doing Business report and how I respected the integrity of the report," she said, adding that "I look forward to an expeditious resolution of the matter."

The law firm found that Georgieva, along with her associate Simeon Djankov, a former Bulgarian finance minister who created the report, and Jim Yong Kim, then-president of the bank, pressured staff to change the calculation of China´s ranking to avoid angering Beijing.

The push came while bank leadership was engaged in sensitive negotiations with Beijing over increasing the bank´s lending capital.

According to the investigation, Beijing complained about its ranking of 78th on the list in 2017, and the next year´s report would have shown Beijing dropping even further.

In the final weeks before the report was released at the end of October 2017, Kim and Georgieva asked staff to look into updating the methodology in regard to China, according to the WilmerHale investigation.

Following the accusations, the World Bank scrapped its Doing Business report, which ranked nations based on their investment climate. Georgieva began her leadership of the IMF on October 1, 2019, replacing Christine Lagarde, who was appointed to the European Central Bank, where she serves as president. Georgieva was the only candidate.