The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) executive board on Oct. 11 said it has “full confidence” in Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva following an investigation into allegations that she applied “undue pressure” on staff to boost China’s standing in the bank’s “Doing Business 2018” report.
A report (pdf), prepared by outside law firm WilmerHale at the request of the World Bank’s ethics committee, implicated Georgieva and then-World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and cast a spotlight on China’s influence at the institution.
China’s ranking in the 2018 report, released in October 2017, should have been seven places lower, at 85th rather than remaining at 78th, the lender said in a review released in December 2020.
The board of the 190-nation lending agency said Monday’s meeting was the eighth such board meeting on the matter, and that it had held two extensive discussions each with the representatives of WilmerHale as well as with the managing director.
Concluding its review on the matter on Oct. 11, the IMF executive board said Georgieva did not demonstrate misconduct in her handling of the allegedly rigged report while serving as chief executive of the World Bank.
“The executive board considered that the information presented in the course of its review did not conclusively demonstrate that the managing director played an improper role regarding the Doing Business 2018 Report when she was CEO of the World Bank,” the IMF said in a statement late on Monday. “Having looked at all the evidence presented, the executive board reaffirms its full confidence in the managing director’s leadership and ability to continue to effectively carry out her duties.”
The report by WilmerHale found that China’s boosting appeared to be “the product of two distinct types of pressure applied by bank leadership on the Doing Business team.”
It said Georgieva and a key adviser had pressured staff to “make specific changes to China’s data points” and boost its ranking at a time when the bank was seeking China’s support for a big capital increase.
World Bank employees also received “direct and indirect pressure” from senior staff in Kim’s office to change the report’s methodology to boost China’s score, likely under Kim’s direction, the report also said.
The IMF in its statement on Monday said that “the Board trusts in the Managing Director’s commitment to maintaining the highest standards of governance and integrity in the IMF.”
Georgieva, who was at the World Bank from 2017–19 and joined the IMF in late 2019, will stay on as its managing director.
The executive board also reiterated its commitment to supporting her in “maintaining the highest standards of governance and integrity in the data, research, and operations of the IMF” and said it is confident that all IMF staff will remain impartial, maintain analytical excellence, and take accountability.
The board noted that it plans to consider “possible additional steps to ensure the strength of institutional safeguards in these areas” and that the World Bank’s investigation of potential World Bank staff misconduct in the Doing Business report matter is still ongoing.
Georgieva, a Bulgarian economist, had vehemently denied the claims. She welcomed the board’s conclusion in a separate statement.
“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.”
Cathy He and Reuters contributed to this report.