FILE PHOTO: International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks during a joint news conference at the end of the Summit on the Financing of African Economies in Paris, France May 18, 2021. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
October 11, 2021
By Andrea Shalal and David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund’s 24-member executive board is due to resume talks later on Monday about data-rigging allegations against Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, after vowing on Sunday to resolve the issue “very soon,” sources familiar with the matter said.
France and other European governments on Friday backed the Bulgarian economist to complete her term as IMF chief, while U.S. officials and others had sought more time to study the differing accounts about data irregularities in the World Bank’s now-cancelled “Doing Business” report.
Georgieva has strongly denied the allegations, which date back to 2017, when she was the World Bank’s chief executive. She became the IMF’s managing director in October, 2019.
An investigation report prepared for the World Bank board by the law firm WilmerHale alleged that Georgieva and other senior officials applied “undue pressure” on bank staff to alter data to boost China’s ranking in the “Doing Business” report, just as the bank was seeking Beijing’s support for a major capital increase.
The scandal threatens to overshadow this week’s high-profile fall meetings of the IMF and World Bank, where Georgieva is due to take a lead role along with World Bank President David Malpass in discussions on the global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, debt relief and efforts to speed vaccinations.
France and other European governments had pressed for a speedy resolution ahead of the meetings and have urged other shareholders to back Georgieva, according to sources familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The United States and Japan, the fund’s two largest shareholders, meanwhile, pushed for a more thorough review and cautioned against prematurely reconfirming confidence in the IMF leader, said one of the sources.
The board generally acts by consensus, but could take a vote if the differences among the shareholders cannot be resolved, the source said.
A second source expressed confidence that Georgieva ultimately would be cleared, given the strong support she has received from shareholders in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, but said it remained unclear if U.S. concerns had been satisfied.
Monday’s meeting, initially slated to begin at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) was postponed for hours as board members consulted with their governments after another marathon meeting that ended late Sunday night.
Malpass on Monday declined to comment on the IMF process, but said the World Bank was working to improve the integrity of its research, including by elevating its chief economist, Carmen Reinhart, to be part of the bank’s 10-person senior-management team.
“We’ve taken several steps … to build morale,” Malpass said. “I met last week with the economics staff and with Carmen and her large economic staff, and recommitted myself and the bank to the development agenda that is the mission of the bank.”
Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese-British billionaire who leads a foundation focused on leadership in Africa, on Sunday called Georgieva a “highly competent leader” and said it would be a shame if she “falls victim to spurious charges of favoring China.”
He said the charges leveled at Georgieva were part of a geopolitical battle between the United States and China that posed “an existential threat to multilateralism and global institutions.”
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Additional reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Paul Simao)