IMF board backs Georgieva after review of data-rigging claims

The 24-member board reached the decision on October 11 after marathon meetings over the past week, where members debated the future of Ms. Georgieva, a Bulgarian economis

The International Monetary Fund’s executive board on October 11 expressed its full confidence in Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva after reviewing allegations that she pressured World Bank staff to alter data to favor China.

But Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen put Ms. Georgieva on notice that she would closely monitor the IMF’s follow-up and evaluate any new facts or findings, and called for proactive steps to reinforce data integrity and credibility at the IMF.

The Fund’s 24-member board and Treasury issued separate lengthy statements after a week of marathon meetings over Georgieva’s actions as World Bank CEO that threw into question her continued leadership of the IMF. The 24-member board reached the decision after marathon meetings over the past week, where members debated the future of Ms. Georgieva, a Bulgarian economist and the first person from a developing country to head the fund. She welcomed the board’s endorsement in a separate statement of her own and she said was pleased its members had agreed the allegations against her were unfounded.

"This has obviously been a difficult episode for me personally," she said. "However, I want to express my unyielding support for the independence and integrity of institutions such as the World Bank and IMF; and my respect for all those committed to protecting the values on which these organizations are founded."

France and other European governments said last week that they wanted Ms. Georgieva to serve out her term, while U.S. and Japanese officials pushed for a thorough review of the allegations, according to separate sources briefed on the matter.

At issue was a damning report prepared by the law firm Wilmer Hale for the World Bank’s board about data irregularities in the bank’s now-canceled "Doing Business" report.

The firm’s report alleged that Ms. Georgieva and other senior officials applied "undue pressure" on bank staff to make changes to boost China’s ranking in the report, just as the bank was seeking Beijing’s support for a major capital increase.

Ms. Georgieva 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.

France and other European governments had pressed for a speedy resolution of the matter ahead of this week’s annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank, where Ms. Georgieva and World Bank President David Malpass are leading discussions on the global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, debt relief and efforts to speed vaccinations.

The United States and Japan, the fund’s two largest shareholders, cautioned against prematurely reconfirming confidence in the IMF leader, said one of the sources.

No matter who is to blame for the altered data, current and former staff from both institutions say the scandal has dented their research reputations, raising critical questions over whether that work is subject to member-country influence.

Mr. Malpass 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.

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