IMF chief Georgieva's lawyer claims data probe violated World Bank staff rules

David Lawder and Andrea Shalal, Reuters

Posted at Oct 08 2021 08:20 AM

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
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

WASHINGTON - Lawyers who investigated World Bank data-rigging allegations against IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva violated World Bank staff rules by failing to notify her that she was a subject of the probe and by not allowing her to respond to its findings, Georgieva's attorney said.

In a letter to the International Monetary Fund Executive Board released on Thursday, Covington & Burling attorney Lanny Breuer asked directors to consider "fundamental procedural and substantive errors" with the investigation report by WilmerHale, a law firm hired by the World Bank's board to investigate data irregularities in the lender's flagship "Doing Business" rankings of country business climates.

The WilmerHale report alleged that while Georgieva was World Bank CEO in 2017, she applied "undue pressure" on World Bank staff to make data changes that boosted China's ranking at a time when the bank was seeking Beijing's support for a major capital increase. Georgieva has denied the allegations.

The new claims from Breuer, a former US Justice Department official and special counsel to former President Bill Clinton during his 1999 impeachment trial, come as Georgieva tries to persuade the IMF board to support her.

The board interviewed both Georgieva and WilmerHale this week and will deliberate again on the matter on Friday.

Georgieva on Wednesday called the accusations that she pressured staff to make inappropriate data changes "outrageous and untrue" and said some of her statements were taken out of context by WilmerHale. She publicly released her lengthy statement to the board on Thursday.

"Ms Georgieva has never been notified that she is a subject of the investigation, or been given an opportunity, as guaranteed by Staff Rule 3.00 to review and respond to the report's findings," wrote Breuer, her attorney.

The rule covers the World Bank Office of Ethics and Business Conduct procedures.

The WilmerHale report said the initial part of its investigation focused on board officials pursuant to the Code of Conduct for Board Officials, a different set of rules than the staff rule referenced by Breuer.

"We conducted our investigation following all applicable World Bank rules," the WilmerHale firm said in an emailed statement. 

"Dr. Georgieva was notified that our report would be presented to the World Bank Board, and that the World Bank could disclose any information she provided."

The World Bank's General Counsel's office also said that the investigation into the Doing Business 2018 and 2020 reports "was conducted in full compliance with World Bank rules."

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