September 26, 2023

I.M.F. Chief Quits in Wake of Charges of Sexual Attack

“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 I.M.F.,” he said in a statement dated Wednesday and released early Thursday by the I.M.F. “I think at this time first of my wife — whom I love more than anything — of my children, of my family, of my friends.”

His resignation comes four days after Mr. Strauss-Kahn was taken off an Air France plane at Kennedy International Airport and arrested in connection with the accusations, and a day after Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary, urged the I.M.F. to appoint an interim managing director.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn, a former French finance minister, had been expected to declare his candidacy for the French presidency soon. He was seen as one of the candidates most likely to defeat President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In issuing his resignation, Mr. Strauss-Kahn said, “I want to say that I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me.”

News of the arrest produced an earthquake of shock, outrage, disbelief and embarrassment throughout France.

Though Mr. Strauss-Kahn received generally high marks for his stewardship of the bank, his reputation was tarnished in 2008 by an affair with a Hungarian economist who was a subordinate there. The fund decided to stand by him despite concluding that he had shown poor judgment. He issued an apology to employees at the bank and his wife, Anne Sinclair, an American-born French journalist.

French media quickly announced Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s resignation and underscored that he was leaving to focus on proving his innocence. Commentators said it was unusual for Mr. Strauss-Kahn to use personal language, including references to his wife, family and colleagues at the I.M.F.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s extramarital affairs have long been considered an open secret. But the legal charges against him — which include attempted rape, forced oral sex and an effort to sequester another person against her will — are of an entirely different magnitude, even in France and elsewhere in continental Europe, where voters have generally shown more lenience than Americans toward the sexual behavior of prominent politicians, most notably the escapades of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s resignation sets off the jockeying for his replacement. The French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, is considered a leading candidate to succeed Mr. Strauss-Kahn, her friend and colleague. Her straight talk has helped burnish Ms. Lagarde’s reputation as one of Europe’s most influential ambassadors in the world of international finance.

Her main competition, analysts say, is Kemal Dervis, a former finance minister of Turkey. Mr. Dervis is credited with rescuing the Turkish economy after it was hit by a devastating financial crisis in 2001, in part by securing a multibillion-dollar loan from the I.M.F. Before that, Mr. Dervis worked at the World Bank for 24 years.

In the meantime, the I.M.F. said in its statement Wednesday night that John Lipsky would remain as acting managing director.

Mr. Lipsky can continue until a new chief is appointed. He had already announced plans to leave the agency in August. Normally, a successor is voted by the agency’s 24-member executive board, with large financial contributors like the United States, Japan and China getting a bigger percentage of voting rights. It was not immediately clear when the board would start to consider candidates, whom member countries must nominate.

Europeans want to keep one of their own in a post they have occupied since the I.M.F was created after World War II. But the world’s fast-growing emerging nations say their time has come to run a big institution like the I.M.F., given their growing global economic might.

Lori Moore contributed reporting to this article from New York, and Liz Alderman from Paris.

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