WASHINGTON — In remarks to staff on Friday, Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, denied allegations that she pressured staff to manipulate a report to placate China when she was a top World Bank official and said she cares deeply about the integrity of data and analysis, according people familiar with the meeting.
“I disagree with the implications for my role, and let me put it very simply to you: Not true,” she said, according to a transcript of her remarks.
Ms. Georgieva’s defense of her actions came a day after an internal World Bank investigation concluded that she was among a group of senior World Bank officials who pressured the team that conducts the annual Doing Business survey to inflate China’s standing in its 2018 report. The findings have raised questions about Ms. Georgieva, who was the World Bank’s chief executive at the time, and have led to a review by the ethics committee of the I.M.F.
The meeting on Friday, which was held mostly virtually, had been previously scheduled to prepare the staff of the I.M.F. for its upcoming annual meeting held jointly with the World Bank.
Ms. Georgieva addressed the controversy at the outset of the meeting, reiterating her public statement that she “fundamentally disagrees” with the characterizations in the report and insisting that the inquiry would not be a distraction. She did not litigate the details of the allegations, but she said that asking staff to double-check something is not the same as pressuring them to change data, methodology or an outcome.
“Neither in this case nor before or after have I put pressure on staff to manipulate data. I would ask staff to please check, double-check, triple-check, but never change, never manipulate what the data tells us,” she said. “Why? Because I believe so strongly in the value of credible data and analysis that leads to policy recommendations for the benefit of our members. For the benefit of people.”
Ms. Georgieva expressed remorse that the inquiry had caused an uproar but she insisted that it would not be a distraction.
“It is my responsibility that this does not interfere with the incredibly important work we do,” she said. “So let’s focus on that work, and that is what the focus of the discussion we will have today is all about.”
According to the World Bank investigation, which was conducted by the law firm WilmerHale at the request of the bank’s ethics committee, officials in 2017 were concerned about negotiations with members over a capital increase and were under pressure not to anger China, which was ranked 78th on the list of countries that year and was set to decline in the 2018 report.
The investigation found that Ms. Georgieva was “directly involved” with efforts to improve China’s ranking. At one point, according to the report, Ms. Georgieva chastised the bank’s China director for mismanaging the bank’s relationship with the country.
On Thursday, the World Bank said it was ending its annual Doing Business survey.
The Treasury Department, which serves as America’s liaison to the I.M.F. and has significant voting power, expressed concern over the allegations and said it was analyzing the findings of the investigation.