The International Monetary Fund said Sunday it still had not decided whether its embattled chief would keep her job, with the lack of clarity over Kristalina Georgieva’s future threatening to overshadow the body’s fall meetings this week.
An investigation by a law firm has concluded that the Bulgarian managing director manipulated data in favor of China while in a senior role at the World Bank.
The IMF board met again with representatives of the firm, WilmerHale, and with Georgieva over the weekend.
The board said in a statement published late Sunday that it made “further significant progress today in its assessment with a view to very soon concluding its consideration of the matter”.
It added: “The Executive Board has consistently expressed its commitment to a thorough, objective, and timely review.”
The 24-member board — which usually makes decisions by consensus — could meet again Monday, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The week-long fall meetings of both the IMF and the World Bank are also scheduled to start Monday, when Georgieva, 68, is due to speak during a roundtable, as well as give a press conference Wednesday.
The storm at the top of the fund could pull focus from topics nominally at the top of the agenda, such as threats to global economic growth and helping countries bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic.
WilmerHale’s controversial findings center on the drafting of the 2018 and 2020 editions of the World Bank’s report ranking countries according to their ease of doing business.
The World Bank’s ethics committee called in the law firm when the report proved controversial, and led to the resignation of the bank’s former chief economist Paul Romer.
WilmerHale found that Georgieva — along with her associate Simeon Djankov, a former Bulgarian finance minister who created the “Doing Business” report, and Jim Yong Kim, then president of the World Bank — pressured staff to change the calculation of China’s ranking to avoid angering Beijing.
The push came while bank leadership was engaged in sensitive negotiations with Beijing over increasing the bank’s lending capital.
Georgieva — who took over as head of the fund in October 2019 — has repeatedly denied the WilmerHale report’s conclusions. There was no immediate reaction from her on Sunday.
Her fate divides members of the IMF, with Europe and Africa wanting her to stay in post, while the United States and Japan are reluctant to see her continue, according to several sources familiar with the matter.
Several leading economists have come to Georgieva’s defense.
In a statement released by a PR agency retained by Georgieva, six former World Bank officials called her “a person of the greatest integrity and committed to development”.
And in an opinion piece published late September in Project Syndicate, an online media outlet, Nobel laureate and former chief economist at the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz called the efforts to impeach Georgieva a “coup” and the WilmerHale report “a hatchet job”.