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Exclusive-World Bank denies IMF chief Georgieva's bid for meeting to defend herself -sources



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva makes remarks during a closing news conference for the International Monetary Finance Committee (IMFC), during the IMF and World Bank’s 2019 Annual Meetings of finance mi

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The World Bank’s board has turned down a request by IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva for a meeting to defend herself against claims that she pressured staff to alter data as the bank’s CEO in 2017, according to two sources briefed on the situation.

An attorney hired by Georgieva asked for the meeting in a 17-page letter on Friday to the dean of the bank’s board.

The attorney, Whitney Debevoise of Arnold & Porter, wrote that an investigation report prepared by the WilmerHale law firm for the board was improperly conducted, violated Georgieva’s due process rights, and based its fundamental conclusion on a false assumption, according to a copy of the letter viewed by Reuters.

WilmerHale concluded in September that officials including Georgieva applied “undue pressure” https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/world-bank-kills-business-climate-report-after-ethics-probe-cites-undue-pressure-2021-09-16 on bank staff to alter data to favor China in the bank’s Doing Business 2018 rankings.

Georgieva has denied the allegations and the board of the International Monetary Fund, which Georgieva has headed since October 2019, this month found no conclusive evidence https://www.reuters.com/business/imf-board-resume-debate-over-georgievas-future-later-monday-2021-10-11 to support accusations of wrongdoing.

The World Bank board told Debevoise it would be inappropriate to meet or hear from Georgieva since it has no role in a separate probe being conducted by WilmerHale about potential wrongdoing by current and former bank staff, including Georgieva, according to a person briefed on the conversation.

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That report, expected in about two months, will go to the bank’s human resources department, not the board.

The dean of the board Merza Hasan, the chair of the board’s ethics committee and the head of a separate panel on governance all rejected the request, sources close to the board said.

In a joint response described to Reuters, the three officials told the board they would not be sharing Debevoise’s letter or earlier statements by Georgieva, saying the bank’s rules are intended to prevent “any interference from the board or any other party” in staff investigations, the sources said.

The three officials communicated separately with Debevoise’s law firm.

A World Bank spokesperson declined to comment on the latest developments, saying the bank did not comment on investigations.

WilmerHale did not respond to requests for comment on the Debevoise letter. Earlier this month, the firm said its report followed all applicable World Bank rules, and Georgieva had been told the World Bank could disclose any information she provided.

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