(CNN) – As the International Monetary Fund (IMF) prepares to replace its disgraced former managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, e-mails obtained exclusively by CNN offer a unique insight into the mood among staff. (See below)
While Strauss-Kahn was busy penning a heartfelt goodbye letter sent out on Sunday, documents reveal some of the fund's female employees had already been calling for change: namely, for a woman to run the IMF.
Strauss-Kahn resigned last week as head of the fund in the face of sexual assault charges. In a note to staff, obtained by CNN, the economist said he is confident of being exonerated of accusations that he attacked a hotel maid in New York, but he could not "accept that the Fund - and you dear colleagues - should in any way have to share my own personal nightmare. So, I had to go."
The fund is scheduled to begin accepting nominations for his replacement, with a battle shaping up between Europe and the developing world. The United Kingdom said over the weekend it would back French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde for the position; a move that will likely appeal to women at staff at the IMF, who complained in e-mails obtained by CNN of the male culture at the global economic organization.
Rolls Royce CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes shares his secrets of success and his biggest mistakes.
How long can the head of Goldman Sachs hang on to his top job? CNN's Maggie Lake reports.
Editor’s Note: CNN's Nina dos Santos has obtained a copy of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s farewell e-mail to the staff at the International Monetary Fund following his resignation last week.
Sent: Sunday, May 22, 2011 6:01 PM
Subject: Message from the Acting Managing Director, John Lipsky
As I mentioned in our recent Town Hall, the former Managing Director regrets that he is not going to be able to address us in person, but expressed his desire to send a message to Fund staff as soon as it was feasible.
I have just received the following letter from him, and I wanted to share it with you as quickly as possible.
You have seen my letter of resignation as Managing Director of the Fund—one of the most difficult communications of my life. I wanted very much to be in touch with you, personally and directly, to express my profound sadness and frustration in having to leave under these circumstances. I am doing so because I believe it to be in the best interests of the institution that I care about so much, and of you, the staff, whom I deeply appreciate and admire.
The past days have been extremely painful for me and my family, as I know they have been for everyone at the Fund. I am very sorry that this has been the case. I deny in the strongest possible terms the allegations which I now face; I am confident that the truth will come out and I will be exonerated. In the meantime, I cannot accept that the Fund—and you dear colleagues—should in any way have to share my own personal nightmare. So, I had to go.
(CNN) - At last, someone who understands that failure is NOT the end of the world. Finally, a business book that doesn’t make me and half the people I know feel like idiots for not inventing Facebook first! A kindred spirit, I thought, as I sat down to interview Financial Times columnist Tim Harford about his new book “Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure.”
You see, Harford understands that success requires failure – over and over again. Even when you don’t realize you’ve failed in business, chances are you have. Chances are you learned from it. And chances are the next thing you undertook was better because of it.
Harford advocates making room to experiment and fail in your daily work environment. Easier said than done!
His examples include Lehman Brothers – a collapse of mind-numbing complexity – and a spate of problems too big to solve. Harford makes the case that preventing colossal failures would be easier if we’d just embrace the smaller ones along the way. Failure, he says, is under-rated (be sure to tell that to your boss at your next performance review will you?)
Harford’s examples include the banking crisis, the Iraq war, even climate change. What would you be more likely to fail at: Building a toaster or staging a Broadway musical? You might be surprised. There is a lot of high economics in plain English in Harford’s book—a delightful read!
When you buy a 50 cent newspaper in Zimbabwe, you don’t receive change in coins. Instead, you get a small, round, grey token, which you redeem at the same newspaper vendor when you buy from him another day.
When your supermarket bill is rung up and the total is $5.21 the cashier offers you some sweets to make up the 79 cents change difference.
When you buy a pizza or a burger at a Harare fast-food center, your change is a thin paper voucher, which you’d better cash in quickly because within days the ink has rubbed off in your wallet. All you are left with is a grimy blank piece of paper.
When you hop off a local minibus taxi be sure get your change from the driver. Sometimes he hands it over, other times he rounds up the cost of trip, leaving passengers shortchanged. Mostly, he hands over a dollar note to two strangers exiting his taxi at the same place – telling them they have to divide the change.
Sometimes, frustrated, poor commuters come to blows on the side of the road over how to split taxi-fare change.
Taxi passengers – like shoppers and newspaper vendors – can’t receive their change because there are no coins in Zimbabwe. The smallest denomination is a $1 U.S. note.
The country adopted the U.S. dollar two years ago after the collapse of the Zim dollar. Since then, rampant, record inflation has stabilized but the realities on the streets indicate there are still very challenging economic realities for Zimbabweans.
Firstly, the price of produce and goods has become more expensive because the country now has to import most foodstuffs. A chicken at a supermarket costs around $10 U.S.
Secondly, because there are no coins, many shops and restaurants automatically round up the price of their goods and services – so ordinary Zimbabweans find themselves footing the bill for an ad hoc “change tax.”
Zimbabweans say proudly that they are a resilient people, that they survived even tougher economic times in the past decade. Indeed, that seems true because from what I have witnessed this week on the streets of Harare, they seem to have stoically adapted to an economy that is run on dollars and sweets, not dollars and cents.
As Christine Lagarde prepares to take the reins at the International Monetary Fund, her cool head in a crisis and capability in negotiating consensus will stand her in good stead.
I first met Madame Lagarde in 2007, shortly after she was appointed France’s Finance Minister – the first woman to hold such a role among the world’s eight most industrialized nations.
I remember being transfixed by two things: her imposing stature (standing six-feet tall versus my five-foot nothing) and considerable self assurance. Yet Lagarde’s “Iron Lady” ego and Thatcheresque looks belie a more deadly weapon to those who stand in her way. For Ms Lagarde is, above all, charming.
At a meeting of EU finance chiefs in the South of France a year later, I watched Lagarde’s male counterparts both cower and drool as she delivered a powerful pre-dinner speech in the garden of a Riviera villa. She was wearing a suit that meant business and satin stilettos that said cocktail time.
The evening was warm, the champagne flowed and with Lagarde on the stage, the credit crunch seemed a distant memory even though Europe was already lurching into a recession.
Lagarde, whose country was now halfway through its rotating EU presidency, was on top form even if the financial sector was not. You see, part of Lagarde’s charm is that she embodies contradictions.
But that gathering was France entertaining its clubby eurozone neighbors and now Lagarde will soon be playing to a larger audience with more power, more money. Those who have met her more than once over the years, like me, have no doubt she will rise to the challenge.
In fact, while some eurozone colleagues may shrink behind the weight of their hefty responsibilities (see Greece) Lagarde shines when given a tough job to do.
Soon after becoming France's Finance Minister, with the onset of the credit crunch well and truly apparent, I remember Lagarde summoned the heads of all of the country's banks and made them be brutally honest with her about their finances.
Looking back on those days in a recent interview for the documentary 'Too Big to Fail,' the French Finance Minister admitted with candour that the first time she found out about the collapse of Lehman Brothers was 'after the event.'
She certainly won't be able to say the same about Greece – if or when (according to an increasing number of analysts) – it defaults.
At first glance Lagarde seems as Gallic as they come. She always makes time during her busy schedule to have a proper lunch – le dejeuner is in fact something of a ritual on the sixth floor of number 139 Rue de Bercy, the seat of the finance ministry in Paris.
So far so French… yet what makes Lagarde properly palatable to politicians across the Pond is that she has spent many years in the United States, reaching the top of Baker & McKenzie, one of the country’s biggest law firms, as its first female chairman. Lagarde’s time in the U.S. has left her with impeccable English and fluent in the language of finance, making her one of the most lucid and respected politicians in Europe.
Her pulling power extends to the media as well. Last year Forbes magazine rated her the world’s 43rd most powerful woman and she was voted best European finance minister by the Financial Times in 2009.
But for Lagarde, being European –or indeed French – may prove to be a double-edged sword. France has dominated the top positions at the fund since its inception in 1945, providing four out of its past 11 managing directors. And while emerging markets have stoked debate about opening up the field, experts say it’s unlikely European countries will relinquish control anytime soon with bailouts for Greece, Portugal and Ireland to consider. So, with a new European MD at the fund Ms Lagarde will have to choose her moves wisely-lest she attract accusations of 'Old World' favoritism.
For the 24-member executive committee making the appointment this week, things couldn't have turned out better, as Agustin Carstens, the Mexican Central Bank Governor, would make an ideal fit to replace John Lipsky as Deputy MD.
Such an appointment would also appease growing calls for more developing world representation among the top tiers at the IMF.
Christine Lagarde is a woman with many facets but her laser-sharp focus is what marks her out most. The mother of two once represented her country’s hopes in synchronised swimming. Her hair may be silver but make no mistake she's going for gold. Whether the IMF and the eurozone will have any left when they've finished bailing out Greece is another matter.
Urgently required: A senior level politician to chair international organization with a myriad of shareholders from around the globe.
Board members include the U.S., Germany, France, China and Saudi Arabia. Candidate must feel at ease with leaders ranging from Barack Obama to Wen Jiabao and have a wide-range of contacts from Wall Street to Shanghai and all places in between.
The financial crisis of 2008 demands this person would have an intricate knowledge of financial instruments, Basel III banking rules and monetary policy. The ideal candidate is a European that commands the respect of the Chancellor of Germany, embraces the G-20 architecture and has the backing of the President or Prime Minister of your home country. Female candidates are encouraged to apply.
CNN - Job of the week: "one managing director required to run the world's biggest 'lender of last resort'. The successful candidate will be an experienced policymaker with excellent diplomacy skills. Those with a 'colorful' personal life though need not apply."
You can just imagine officials at the International Monetary Fund scrambling to put the final touches to its latest job spec following the resignation of their managing director last night.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn's decision to step down to fight allegations of sexual assault has got the world's highest-profile power-brokers quickly dusting off their resumes. His departure has also sent economists into a frenzy with many drafting their own lists of who might make cut.
The reality is that we may not know for several days or even weeks who will take control of the fund's $750 billion lending capacity and its 2,500 staff. This is because the appointment of a new MD is both political and economic.
The decisions on who gets nominated and eventually chosen occur behind closed doors, first at a country level and then on an international stage.
In fact, the opaque nature of the selection process, combined with emerging markets calls for more of a say, means the IMF has now agreed to increase its transparency about how its next MD will be chosen.
In the meantime though, this is broadly speaking how it worked the last time, when Strauss-Kahn himself became MD in 2007:
About Business 360
CNN International's business anchors and correspondents get to grips with the issues affecting world business, and they want your questions and feedback.