WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 (Reuters) – Some European governments on Friday backed Kristalina Georgieva to remain managing director of the International Monetary Fund as the IMF board debated her alleged role in a World Bank, people familiar with the matter said.
A source from the French finance ministry told Reuters that France plans to express support for Georgieva during the board meeting. Britain, Germany and Italy are also expected to back Georgieva, another source briefed on the matter said.
Officials from the French, British and German embassies in Washington did not immediately comment. The Italian Embassy did not immediately respond to the request for comment.
But hopes that the board would quickly reach consensus on its future at the lender in global crisis seemed to be fading amid the uncertainty surrounding the U.S. stance. An IMF board meeting went on for hours behind closed doors.
Some officials wanted more time to review the documents and discrepancies between Georgieva’s and law firm WilmerHale’s accounts, people familiar with the effort said.
WilmerHale’s investigative report prepared for the World Bank board claimed that when Georgieva was managing director of the World Bank in 2017, she put “undue pressure” on bank staff to change the data of the flagship “Doing Business” report in order to strengthen the ranking of the business climate in China.
The IMF’s board has considered the requests and held lengthy talks this week with Georgieva and WilmerHale lawyers.
Georgieva has firmly denied the allegations. His lawyer claims WilmerHale’s investigation partly violated World Bank personnel rules by denying him the opportunity to respond to the charges, a claim WilmerHale disputes.
Georgieva also received a statement of support from African finance ministers.
But the US Treasury, a major IMF powerhouse, declined to comment on Friday.
Treasury spokeswoman Alexandra LaManna said earlier this week that the department had “pushed for thorough and fair accounting of all facts” as part of the ongoing review. “Our primary responsibility is to maintain the integrity of international financial institutions,” she said.
The head of the IMF has traditionally been chosen by European governments, with the US administration appointing the president of the World Bank.
In 2019 France supported Georgieva, a Bulgarian economist who has held senior positions at the European Commission, as a compromise candidate to break the deadlock over the successor of Christine Lagarde, now President of the Central Bank European.
ANNUAL MEETING CLOUDS
The deliberations of the IMF’s executive board came as the Fund prepares for its biggest political event next week, the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank in Washington. The question should dominate the meetings.
Current and former staff at both institutions said that regardless of who is to blame for the changed data, the scandal has tarnished the reputation of their researchers, raising critical questions about whether this work is subject to country influence. members.
Anne Krueger, former chief economist at the World Bank and first deputy managing director of the IMF, argued in a blog post Thursday that Georgieva must step down to restore the fund’s credibility.
“If Georgieva stays in her post, she and her staff will surely be pressured to change data and rankings for other countries,” Krueger wrote. “And even if they resist, the reports they produce will be suspect. The whole work of the institution will be devalued.”
Reporting by David Lawder and Andrea Shalal in Washington; Additional reporting by Leigh Thomas in Paris and Bart Meijer in Amsterdam; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Cynthia Osterman
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