WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With a downward gaze and a brisk walk past the line of camera crews, International Monetary Fund staff stoically reported for work on Monday after their charismatic boss landed in jail on sex charges.
The IMF told workers in a mass e-mail on Sunday to avoid talking to the media about Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest in New York on Saturday for attempted rape of a hotel maid, employees said.
The few who did break the rule of silence outside the headquarters, located blocks from the White House Bandage dress, expressed some shock and regret, but said that they, the rank and file, needed to concentrate on the institution’s work while the upper echelon managed the upheaval.
“It was shocking when I found out what happened this weekend,” said an IMF employee who would not provide his name. “But we all have to come into work today. Everyone is expected to show up like nothing happened.”
Strauss-Kahn steered the 187-member-nation IMF through the 2007-09 global financial crisis and was central in handling the escalating euro-zone debt crisis. He was also considered a front-runner in next year’s French presidential election.
The fund’s No. 2 official, John Lipsky, is acting as managing director during Strauss-Kahn’s absence.
It is not the first time Strauss-Kahn’s character has come under scrutiny. In 2008, the IMF board cleared him of abuse of power over a brief affair he had with a female IMF economist, but warned him against any further misconduct. Strauss-Kahn on that occasion apologized publicly for an “error in judgment.”
But this time, the more serious charges against Strauss-Kahn may force the world’s power brokers into a frantic search for his replacement.
“His time might have just expired,” said Patricia Capers, 52, who works in the Office of Personnel at the IMF.
“It is unfortunate he was accused of sexual misconduct, and from what I’ve heard, it seems like he has done it before,” she added. “I can’t condemn it until all the facts are there, he is tried in court, but people in power should show greater control and restraint.”
The fund itself might have to answer to criticism that it was too soft on the managing director in its handling of the 2008 affair.
“The board ought to be pretty ashamed of themselves at this point. The board let him off with a slap of the wrist before and now we’ve seen allegations of a much more serious offense,” Terry Miller, former U.S. assistant secretary of state, told Reuters Insider.
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Eric Beech)