IMF chief facing data-rigging allegations defends actions

FILE - In this May 18, 2021 file photo, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks at the end of the Financing of African Economies Summit in Paris. Kristalina Georgieva, the head of the International Monetary Fund met on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021 with her agency's executive board, which is conducting an investigation into alleged data-rigging at the World Bank, the sister global lender where she was formerly was a top executive. (Ludovic Marin via AP, Pool, File) (Ludovic Marin, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – The head of the International Monetary Fund said Thursday that a report alleging she had a role in data-rigging at the World Bank when she was a top official there was not an accurate representation of events.

The statement came a day after IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva appeared before the agency's executive board, which is investigating allegations that in 2018 World Bank employees were pressured to alter data affecting its business-climate rankings of China and other nations.

The bank's "Doing Business” report ranked countries after evaluating its tax burdens, bureaucratic obstacles, regulatory systems and other business conditions. High rankings in the report were coveted by governments seeking to attract investment.

"I am pleased that I finally had the opportunity to explain to the IMF board my role in the Doing Business report and how I respected the integrity of the report,” Georgieva said in a statement released Thursday.

In addition to the statement, Georgieva's lawyers released the 11-page statement she delivered to the board on Wednesday in a meeting that lasted over five hours. The board is scheduled to meet again on the matter Friday.

Georgieva has denied any wrongdoing in the matter amid calls that she should resign from her position at the IMF. She served as chief executive officer of the World Bank from January 2017 to September 2019, before taking the top job at the 190-nation IMF, succeeding Christine Lagarde, who is now head of the European Central Bank.

The allegations of data-rigging come from a review conducted by the WillimerHale law firm that alleged Georgieva pressured the bank's economists to improve China's ranking at a time when she and other bank officials were attempting to persuade China to support a boost in the World Bank's funding resources.

The law firm's report prompted the World Bank to discontinue issuing the annual Doing Business report. It also fed into complaints that China's the world's second largest economy, has too much influence over global financial institutions.

As the world's largest economy, the United States is the largest shareholder at the IMF and World Bank, which are both based in Washington.

Asked if the Biden administration had taken a stand on whether Georgieva should step down from her IMF job, Alexandra LaManna, a Treasury spokesperson, said, “There is a review currently underway with the IMF Board and Treasury has pushed for a thorough and fair accounting of all the facts. Our primary responsibility is to uphold the integrity of international institutions.”

In her statement to the IMF's 24-member executive board, Georgieva said, “The WilmerHale Report does not accurately characterize my actions with respect to Doing Business 2018, nor does it accurately portray my character or the way that I have conducted myself over a long professional career.”