The IMF’s chief may be out of a job at the end of today as the lender’s board held an emergency meeting late last night with managing director Kristalina Georgieva to discuss allegations that, while she was CEO of the World Bank, she pressured staff to change economic data to benefit China.
A decision on the future of Georgieva, who became the IMF’s highest executive in 2019, may come as early as today, according to multiple media reports.
The timing is precarious as finance ministers and other senior officials from the global lender’s 190 member states come together in Washington later today for the annual IMF and World Bank meetings. Around 10,000 people are expected to attend.
The allegations date back to 2017, when Georgieva was chief executive of the World Bank.
It is said that the Bulgarian economist applied “undue pressure” on staff to alter data in the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ rankings of country business climates in order to benefit China.
A report by WilmerHale, a law firm that was hired at the time to probe the data irregularities in the ‘Doing Business’ rankings, explained Georgieva’s actions because, at the same time, she was seeking Beijing’s approval for a major capital increase.
Georgieva has denied any wrongdoing and has called in the help of an experienced lawyer and Washington insider, Covington & Burley partner Lanny Breuer.
In a letter sent to the IMF board late last week by Georgieva’s lawyer, Covington & Burley partner Lanny Breuer, the IMF board is urged to consider the “fundamental procedural and substantive errors” in the WilmerHale report.
He claims the report violated World Bank staff rules because they denied Georgieva the opportunity to respond to the allegations, an assertion WilmerHale reportedly disputes.
Breuer, who was a special counsel to former President Bill Clinton in the late ’90s, calls on the IMF board to support her.
So far, the UK, France and Germany seem to support Georgieva. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown tweeted this over the weekend:
However, other countries are reportedly calling for scrutiny of the disputed ‘Doing Business’ data, to compare the data on China to other countries in the ranking.
The Biden administration has, according to multiple reports, not made up its mind yet. The US Treasury, which holds close to 17 per cent of the IMF’s shares, has so far not responded.
However, Treasury spokesperson Alexandra LaManna did say late last week said the department is “pushing for a thorough and fair accounting of all the facts” in order to uphold “the integrity of international financial institutions.”