Monday, May 16, 2011

Caught With His Pants Down: IMF Chief Suffers Brain Fart

What is it with the heads of the Bretton Wood Institutions? First Paul Wolfowitz of the World Bank got the hook a few years back after abusing his position to arrange a promotion and pay rise for his girlfriend, also working for the World Bank. Now Dominique Strauss-Kahn of the IMF is alleged to have attempted rape on a hotel maid:

IMF Chief Strauss-Kahn Charged With Attempted Rape in New York

May 15 (Bloomberg) -- Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund and a potential candidate for the French presidency next year, was charged with attempted rape and a criminal sex act in New York, the police said today.

The charges stem from an incident that allegedly occurred yesterday against a 32-year-old woman at a Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan, the New York Police Department said in an e- mailed statement early today. Strauss-Kahn was arrested on an Air France flight at John F. Kennedy airport, the police said. He also has been charged with unlawful imprisonment.

This is surreal – a 62 year old married man with four kids is alleged to have chased a 32 year old maid around his expensive, 5-star hotel suite, locked her in and attempted to rape her, and forced her to commit oral sex.

What takes this beyond personal tragedy is that under Strauss-Kahn’s leadership, the IMF had regained a measure of relevance and credibility. He achieved a historic realignment of the balance of power between developed and developing countries in IMF governance, presided over the bail out of a number of European countries during the Great Recession, and helped engineer the expansion of the IMF’s role into macro-prudential surveillance. We’re also looking at an intellectual sea change in the IMF’s approach away from the cookie-cutter days of the Washington Consensus, into something more accommodating of the needs of developing countries.

Now all those gains are being threatened, if these allegations are true (remember: innocent until proven guilty), by an incident that even Hollywood might find too farcical. When the news broke earlier this afternoon, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

We were already going to see a big change at the top of the IMF – both Strauss-Kahn and his deputy were scheduled to leave in a few months – but the current circumstances makes this leadership transition even more critical and politically charged in what has always been a fractious process.

I’m still trying to make some sense of what this might mean for global economic governance, but that there will be an impact is probably a given.


  1. Strauss-Kahn was widely acclaimed as the sage that they should all listen to. how then that he got himself in this predicament is simply tragic and sad beyond belief.

  2. That a man can be wise/excellent in one and foolish isn't contradictory though it's sometimes easily construed that way.

    Eg. Footballers commit such indiscretions all the time. But people still worship 'em for their footballing abilities.

    If he's really sage, we'd still do well to listen to him.

  3. *foolish in another*