Business, Economics and Jobs

IMF: Drums beat for Christine Lagarde


No, IMF chief Christine Lagarde doesn't like what she's seeing in Washington, D.C. these days.


Eric Piermont

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is out as the head of the International Monetary Fund.

"It is with infinite sadness that I feel compelled today to present to the Executive Board my resignation from my post of Managing Director of the IMF. I think at this time first of my wife — whom I love more than anything — of my children, of my family, of my friends," Strauss-Kahn wrote in his resignation letter to the IMF.

So, naturally, the speculation about DSK's replacement has racheted up several degrees.

The leading candidate so far?

French finance minister and financial world rock star Christine Lagarde.

This glowing profile of Lagarde — who lived in the U.S. for twenty-five years and ran the global law firm Baker & McKenzie in Chicago — appeared today in the New York Times.

It it, Lagarde is plausibly portrayed as a tough, frank and logical successor to DSK:

The French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, was on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos this January when her usual smile turned into a frown. Next to her, Robert E. Diamond Jr., chief executive of Barclays and one of the most powerful bankers in the world, thanked regulators and finance ministers for their role in shaping a better environment after the financial crisis.

Ms. Lagarde looked him in the eye. “The best way for the banking sector to say thank you would be to actually have, you know, good financing of the economy, sensible compensation systems in place and reinforcement of their capital,” she replied, to a burst of applause.

In addition to these global finance, economics and political chops, Largarde, 55, would be the first female head of the IMF, a key selling point following the tenure of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, aka "The Seducer."

“What’s happened with Strauss-Kahn underscores how great it would be to have a woman in the role,” Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former IMF chief economist who is now a professor at Harvard University told the Times.

“She is enormously impressive, politically astute and a strong personality,” he added. “At finance meetings all over the world, she is treated practically like a rock star.”

Lagarde, like her friend DSK, has plenty of high-powered connections and experience across Europe, which is yet again struggling with its ongoing debt crisis.

The IMF will play a key role here, too, so the argument for Lagarde continuing this work carries some weight.

Of course, there are some who disagree — notably those in rising economic powers around the world who are increasingly tired of U.S. and European dominance of global institutions like the IMF and World Bank.

But it's hard not to like someone who can talk debt restructuring, get tough with fat cat bankers, schmooze world leaders, and also hang with Jon Stewart:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Christine Lagarde
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