The IMF's Questionable Office Culture


Dominique Strauss-Kahn is out on bail today, meaning he’ll no longer have to endure jail like a “common criminal.” And the increased scrutiny on the IMF has revealed a pretty disturbing workplace culture.

Strauss-Kahn was denied bail Monday, but according to the AP, a new judge has now granted his request. In order to secure his release, he’ll have to pay $1 million and take out a $5 million insurance policy. He’ll then be under house arrest — his wife, to whom he apparently blew a kiss at the hearing, is going to rent an apartment for the purpose. This means he will no longer be in jail, which should be a relief to the media outlets here and abroad that have been obsessed with his imprisonment. Now “Rikers Island, la terrible prison de DSK” can go back to being la terrible prison de 14,000 inmates who were never head of the IMF.

Speaking of that major international body, apparently things there were pretty dicey even before DSK came on the scene. In a fascinating and disturbing article, Binyamin Appelbaum and Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the Times describe the IMF as “a climate in which romances often flourish — and lines are sometimes crossed.” Examples include DSK’s well-publicized affair with a subordinate in 2008, and another incident in which a woman’s superior repeatedly sent her flirtatious and unwanted emails. Then there’s this:

In 2007, officials at the fund declined to investigate a complaint by an administrative assistant who had slept with her supervisor, and who charged that he had given her poor performance reviews to pressure her to continue the relationship. Officials told the woman that the supervisor planned to retire soon, and therefore there was no point in investigating the charges, according to findings by the I.M.F.’s internal court.
The official, who is not named in the records, told investigators that he also had a sexual relationship with a second employee, and that he did not believe he had acted improperly.

IMF sources provided some pretty damning summations of the culture there. One internal review said, “the absence of public ethics scandals seems to be more a consequence of luck than good planning and action.” And former deputy director of research Carmen M. Reinhart described the IMF’s policies on workplace relationships thus: “It’s sort of like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’; the rules are more like guidelines.” Anytime you’re comparing your office to Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s probably a bad sign, and the IMF is apparently starting to recognize this. They’ve enacted new policies to investigate workplace relationships for conflicts of interest, and a new official in charge of looking into harassment claims says of the 2007 incident, “absolutely that wouldn’t have happened today.” Let’s hope that’s true, and that DSK’s notoriety inspires some self-examination in an organization that sounds sorely in need of it.

Ex-IMF Chief Gets $1M Bail In NYC Sex Assault Case [AP, via Yahoo News]
Dominique Strauss-Kahn In Prison [Time]
At I.M.F., Men On Prowl And Women On Guard [NYT]

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