WASHINGTON — The tenure of Kristalina Georgieva as managing director of the International Monetary Fund faces a pivotal moment on Friday, when the fund’s executive board will meet to decide whether she should continue to be its leader after allegations that she pressured staff to manipulate a report to placate China when she was a top World Bank official.
This week, the executive board spent hours questioning Ms. Georgieva about her actions. It also interviewed lawyers from WilmerHale, the firm that conducted the World Bank’s internal review of the circumstances surrounding the Doing Business survey. The review, published last month, concluded that Ms. Georgieva had played a central role in meddling with the report, raising questions about her judgment and ability to continue leading the I.M.F.
Ms. Georgieva has denied the allegations, and in a meeting with the board on Wednesday she offered a forceful rebuttal.
“The WilmerHale Report does not accurately characterize my actions with respect to Doing Business 2018, nor does it accurately portray my character or the way that I have conducted myself over a long professional career,” Ms. Georgieva said in a statement to the board, which was obtained by The New York Times.
Mr. Georgieva, a Bulgarian economist who assumed the top I.M.F. job in 2019, also criticized the nature of the World Bank investigation and said she had been misled.
“The email from WilmerHale requesting my participation said clearly that I was not a subject of the investigation and assured me that my testimony was confidential and protected by World Bank staff rules, which guarantee due process,” Ms. Georgieva said. “None of this proved to be true.”
The controversy has raised questions about China’s influence in multilateral institutions. It has also become a distraction for the I.M.F. as it is trying to help coordinate the global economic response to the pandemic. Prominent economists have publicly debated whether Ms. Georgieva should step down. The Economist magazine called last month for her resignation.
The United States, which is the fund’s largest shareholder, has yet to offer public support, and officials have declined to say if she should stay in the job.
“There is a review currently underway with the I.M.F. board, and Treasury has pushed for a thorough and fair accounting of all the facts,” said Alexandra LaManna, a Treasury spokeswoman. “Our primary responsibility is to uphold the integrity of international financial institutions.”
Former World Bank officials have described Ms. Georgieva as a polarizing figure, but she has generally won praise at the I.M.F. When she assumed the job, she quickly restructured the fund to give her more direct control over its daily operations. That included removing David Lipton, a longtime I.M.F. official and its first deputy managing director, before his term expired.
Mr. Lipton is now a top adviser to Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, who will have significant input as to whether Ms. Georgieva remains in the job.
Treasury officials have been debating how to respond to the allegations against Ms. Georgieva. A person familiar with the deliberations said that Mr. Lipton has been among the officials who have been supportive of Ms. Georgieva, who he worked closely with while she was at the World Bank and he was at the I.M.F.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress have expressed concern about Ms. Georgieva’s actions at the World Bank and called on Ms. Yellen to ensure “full accountability.”
The United States traditionally selects an American to be president of the World Bank, while the managing director of the I.M.F. is usually from Europe.
The I.M.F.’s executive board could make a decision about whether it continues to have confidence in Ms. Georgieva when it meets on Friday.
The annual meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund take place next week.