Lagarde’s employment contract

By Felix Salmon
July 6, 2011
a tough ethics clause into Christine Lagarde's employment contract:

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The IMF, quite rightly, is putting a tough ethics clause into Christine Lagarde’s employment contract:

Her terms of employment were made public as she arrived at the International Monetary Fund’s Washington headquarters…

Lagarde’s contract holds her to “highest standards of ethical conduct consistent with the values of integrity, impartiality and discretion.”

It also requires her to avoid “even the appearance of impropriety.” Further, it states that “in the performance of your duties as managing director, you have an exclusive duty of loyalty to the fund and shall avoid any conflict of interest or the appearance of such a conflict.”

This is all welcome stuff, although it could conceivably cause a kerfuffle if the French Court of Justice breaks against her in its investigation over her involvement in a dispute involving Bernard Tapie.

But what does it mean, exactly, to say that Lagarde’s “terms of employment were made public”? I spent a bunch of time burrowing around the IMF website this morning trying to find them, without success. Eventually the Guardian came along to solve the problem: its article on Lagarde’s contract links the phrase “terms of appointment” here.

As you might expect when a URL has the term “protected” in it not once but twice, clicking on that link will get you just as far as a big green box with a padlock on it and the words “secure area” in all caps.

I do understand why it makes sense for the IMF to have a secure media briefing center apart from the press-release area on its website: such things come in handy for embargoed content, and the IMF releases a lot of that. But there’s no reason why Lagarde’s terms of employment should have been embargoed, and even if there was, there’s no reason for them still to be missing from the main IMF website.

This isn’t in itself an ethics issue — it’s a transparency issue, which is related but not identical. I do think that the IMF and the World Bank tend to be a bit sheepish about their pay levels, not least because if you’re not a US citizen, all that money — $467,940 a year, in Lagarde’s case, plus an allowance of $84,000 — comes to you tax-free.

Lagarde was almost certainly earning more, even on an after-tax basis, when she was at Baker & McKenzie, but she’s still being paid substantially more than any elected head of state in the world. If the job of IMF managing director is a public-service one, one wonders why her salary needs to be so high.

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