Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, escaped any jail time or fine after being found guilty in a case involving the misuse of public funds during her time as finance minister.
國際貨幣基金組織(International Monetary Fund, 簡稱IMF)執行董事會週二正式任命法國財長拉嘉德(Christine Lagarde)為新一任總裁﹐拉嘉德在最後時刻獲得了美國和多個主要新興市場國家的支持。
Lagarde Starts Charm Offensive
Finance | 25.05.2011
Portrait of IMF front runner Christine Lagarde
Lagarde is hoping to add IMF chief to her list of achievements
French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde is strongly supported by Europe and the United States in her bid to head the International Monetary Fund. However, there is a potential stumbling block.
Women are less affected by libido and testosterone in their work – so said French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde last fall. Following accusations of sexual assault against former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, it could well be a good idea to have a woman succeed him as head of the International Monetary Fund. Lagarde is seen as a promising successor to DSK – as the former IMF chief is commonly called – after she officially announced her candidacy at a press conference on Wednesday.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned as IMF chief following allegations of sexual abuse.Lagarde was the first woman to head the French finance ministry, the first female finance minister in a G8 country, and could now become the first woman to lead the IMF. Her chances of doing so are good, as she has received strong support for her candidacy. She's not only backed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy but also by members of the OECD from Britain, Italy, Ireland and the Netherlands. Germany has not officially made its recommendation for a candidate, but has signalled support for Lagarde.
According to statements from France, Lagarde has also received backing from China, although the emerging economies would prefer to have their own candidate rather than a European. China's foreign ministry declined to make an official statement, but if China were to back her Lagarde would undoubtedly lead the field in the race for the executive chair of the IMF. The United States is also reported to have expressed strong support for a European chief. Together with Europe, the United States possesses more than half of the IMF's voting power, which gives it enough influence to decide who should lead the IMF.
At home on the international scene
Lagarde has strong connections to the United States and would certainly not be regarded by the Americans as an an unwelcome candidate. She gained political experience as an intern for Republican William Cohen, later Defense Secretary under Bill Clinton. She returned to France to study law and English, beginning her career as a lawyer at American law firm Baker and McKenzie in Paris. She went back to the United States 18 years later to take up the post of manager at Baker and McKenzie's headquarters in Chicago. Former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin convinced her to return to France in 2005 to enter politics.
Lagarde has strong support in both Europe and the USShe brought with her a pragmatic Anglo-Saxon and team-oriented style of problem solving. In France, she was somewhat ridiculed at the beginning for her forthright manner. She caused uproar, for example, when she supported a rigorous austerity program in a country whose people were used to being taken care of by the state. When the French complained about high gas prices, she pragmatically encouraged them to ride their bicycles. Later, too, Lagarde refused to shy away from potential conflict.
Eventually, it wasn't just the French who were convinced by her direct style. She was voted "Finance Minister of the Year" by the Financial Times for her contribution to the establishment of the 750-million euro bailout plan and for reining in hedge funds during the 2009 financial crisis.
A liberal with a touch of socialism
Lagarde's economic policy followed a similar path as Strauss-Kahn's – pro market economy and pro globalization, but with clear rules. Like President Sarkozy, she wants the IMF to develop into a type of global economic governance organization. The contacts she's made during her career in the international economic and financial world could help realise this aim.
With an attractive tan, elegant wardrobe and distinctive smile, the sophisticated Lagarde exudes optimism. As the oldest sister of three brothers, she had to prove herself in a man's world early on. Teamwork is not a foreign word for her, and she made it into the French national synchronized swimming team. Her father died when she was only 17 and two marriages ended in divorce. Today the mother of two sons is linked with Marseille businessman Eachran Gilmour.
Stumbling block before the executive chair
Lagarde allegedly gave preferential treatment to businessman Bernard Tapie Her professional past is spotless - with one exception that could prove a stumbling block on her way to Washington. As finance minister in 2007, Lagarde decided that a year-long legal battle between controversial billionaire Bernard Tapie and the former bank Credit Lyonnais regarding the sale of German sportsware company Adidas should be settled by an arbitration agreement rather than the normal legal process. Tapie received over 285 million euros ($400 million) in compensation from the state.
Suspicions have been voiced that Lagarde used her influence in office to have taxpayers foot the bill for Tapie's compensation. Opposition politicians also claim that Lagarde acted on the instructions of President Sarkozy, who is friends with Tapie.
The French judiciary could decide on June 10 whether or not to proceed with an investigation into Lagarde's alleged abuse of power. This is also the last date for candidates to announce their wish to run for the position of IMF chief. A decision as to whether legal proceedings should be launched against Lagarde would come only after the new IMF boss is elected at the end of June. Another court case involving an incumbent IMF chief is something the International Monetary Fund certainly does not need.
Author: Insa Wrede (cn)
Editor: Susan Houlton