International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Wednesday said there was “no there there” to allegations that she pressured staff to give China favorable treatment during her time working at the World Bank but pledged to make the episode a “learning opportunity.”
Georgieva, speaking at her first press conference since the scandal broke, faced questions on a World Bank-commissioned investigation by law firm WilmerHale, which found senior officials at the bank exerted “direct and indirect” pressure on the authors of the influential “Doing Business” report to promote China.
The report, which assesses the ease with which companies can operate in various countries, said the pressure probably came at the direction of former World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, but it implicated Georgieva, who was CEO of that organization at the time. That scandal spilled over to the IMF, where Georgieva is now managing director.
After deliberating over whether she should keep her job, the IMF’s executive board issued a statement Monday evening expressing confidence in her.
Georgieva said the board did “a very credible and serious job.”
“When we presented finally two sides of the story next to each other, there was no there there,” she told reporters. “But that is not to say I don’t take the broader message of, make sure that staff always can reach out to superiors or through institutional channels to signal discontent, disagreement, and in all my professional life I have been striving for that.”
She said she will meet with staff next Monday for a “very candid, open discussion.”
The scandal comes at an awkward time at the two organizations, right in the middle of their annual fall meetings that bring in top officials from around the world. The episode also touches on questions of China’s influence at the Fund, leading some Republicans in Congress to publicly criticize the U.S.’s decision not to seek her ouster. More broadly, it has raised questions about the integrity of the research put out by the IMF.
“Institutions always have to strive to do better, even if they are excellent, as it is the case with the IMF,” Georgieva said. “The IMF staff is exemplary in the way they carry out their work. There is no doubt in the credibility of the IMF or our data or our research.”