IMF French Kiss

What’s ‘double standard’ en français?

The International Monetary Fund sure was eager to forget about its managing director’s dangerous liaison. A mere week after the investigation into Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s relationship with a female employee went public, the Fund’s board held a Saturday evening press conference to clear the former French finance minister of any wrongdoing. Case closed.

[Review & Outlook] AP

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, right, and World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick.

Many workplaces struggle to draw up policies on sexual relations between colleagues. Three years ago, a Boeing CEO resigned over an affair with a female executive. Not at the Fund. Mr. Strauss-Kahn committed “a serious error of judgment” earlier this year by having an affair with senior IMF economist Piroska Nagy, the governing board concluded. He failed to seek “confidential ethics advice” about this relationship and failed to appreciate that the managing director “sets an important tone for the institution.” Both he and Ms. Nagy are married. But as long as the managing director used “no harassment, favoritism, or any other abuse of authority” toward an employee, all is forgiven.

The investigative report from the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius offers no reason to think Mr. Strauss-Kahn should lose his job. The Fund passed on a formal censure, with officials saying (of course) the incident was already distracting enough during the current global crisis. Dominated by Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s fellow Europeans, the IMF board is “very, very positive and our conclusion was that this will in no way affect the effectiveness of the Managing Director in the very challenging and difficult period ahead,” its dean, Shakour Shaalan, said Saturday.

Barely a year ago, then World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz wasn’t so fortunate. In his case, before taking the top job, he told the Ethics Committee about an existing and public relationship with a bank employee. He then tried to recuse himself from any decisions regarding her next job assignment. Without European sophisticates on the bank board to protect him, he was run out of the neighborhood.

What’s double standard in French?

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