Interview with 24 men: little white lie or the US doesn’t care who runs the IMF?

As Christine Lagarde takes office this week she has been playing up the angle that, because she is a woman, change is coming to the IMF. Of course, Lagarde is the first woman to head the Fund, but she is also the 11th white European (out of 11 total) to have the role, and the 5th French national to head the institution. Since 1978, the IMF has been run by a French national for 26 of the last 33 years. I don’t think we can be sure how much change Lagarde will bring to an institution badly in need of a complete overhaul.

After her selection but before taking office Lagarde spoke to French television, saying (as quoted in a widely run Associated Press article):

“While I was being questioned for three hours by 24 men, I thought, ‘It’s good that things are changing a little.'”

Any journalist with any sense of the IMF structures, or the ability to use the Internet to fact check should have been a bit surprised at this statement. It indicates two distinct possibilities: either Christine Lagarde is telling a white lie (albeit to make a fair point about gender disparities at the IMF) or the United States representative to IMF doesn’t care about respecting the selection process. Now those may seem quite unrelated to so let me explain.

If you look up the IMF’s executive board it will become more obvious. Right there at the top of the list can be seen this entry:

Casting Votes of Votes by Country Total Votes1 Percent
of Fund
Meg Lundsager
Douglas A. Rediker
United States 421,964 421,964 16.78

Let’s be clear, Meg Lundsager is a woman. This is not an ambiguous name. And plugging the name into google image search will flash right back at you the smiling face the US representative to the IMF board, a woman. So it is a bit beyond belief that for a 3 hour interview, the most powerful member of the board – the one that casts the most votes, the one with the swing vote because of the power of European shareholders – did not bother to ask a single question.

Unless, of course, the US top representative to the IMF did not bother attend the interview. Was there already a decision by the Treasury (almost assuredly so) and thus no need to attend? Would the US risk the appearance (the US was a bit better than the European on keeping up appearances, though not perfect) that it had no respect for the process? The US repeated it wanted the best candidate – surely they didn’t lie in that regard…

Lundsager could have been ill the day the interview happened, though I find that improbable. Or maybe Lagarde just told her first little lie as head of the IMF. Bloggers and commenters on forexlive seem to think Lagarde is prone to lies. A copy of the interview transcript would help to clarify who is playing fast and loose with the truth in this instance.


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