Christine Lagarde: Next IMF Chief? 10 Things to Know About Her

[ 0 ] June 8, 2011 |

Christine Lagarde

Dominique Strauss Kahn pleads not guilty to rape; French finance minister Christine Lagarde could be next in line to head the IMF

As former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss Kahn pleaded not guilty to rape Monday, many are wondering whether the IMF will soon see its first woman leader.

Strauss Kahn pleaded not guilty to charges he raped a hotel maid; he’s due back in court July 18. Until then, the former France presidential hopeful is wearing an electronic tag that allows authorities to know where he is at all time, plus he has to pay his own $200,000 a month security tab required so he doesn’t try to flee.

Meanwhile, France’s finance minister, Christine Lagarde, is waiting in the wings in hopes of being the next chief of the IMF, an organization of 187 countries that work to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world. Lagarde, who has the support of U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, is currently on a type of listening tour of countries, promoting her candidacy and espousing her view that developing countries should have more power at the IMF.

And she hasn’t been shy about letting people know she blames having too many men in top banking positions for the 2008 global financial meltdown.

Arvind Subramanian, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, thinks Lagarde is “quite heavily favored” for the job. But, he adds, “I think she has to reassure the other countries … that when it comes to solving Europe’s problems, she will not succumb too early to political pressures or the politics of Europe,” on issues such as bailing out countries like Portugal and Greece with global taxpayer money. “You need to have sensible policies that will really get Europe back into shape.”

Europe’s top officials want a European as IMF chief so that he or she can more effectively deal with Europe’s continuing debt crisis.

Lagarde, 55, was born on Jan. 1, 1956. She has degrees from the Institute of Political Studies (IEP) and from the Law School of Paris X University. She also has a post-graduate diploma in labor law, a Master’s degree in English and a diploma from Holton Arms School in Bethesda, Md. She joined the French law firm of Baker & McKenzie Paris in 1981 and has been a partner since 1987. Specializing in antitrust, labor law, and mergers and acquisitions, Lagarde also served as chairman of Baker & McKenzie’s global policy committee from October 2004 to June 2005 and served as managing partner from 1991 to 1995, when she was elected to the global executive committee.

In June 2005, Lagarde joined the government of then-French President Dominique de Villepin as Minister for Foreign Trade; French exports soared under her leadership. In June 2007 was named Finance and Economy Minister by President Nicolas Sarkozy and is in charge of leading French economic policy in the context of one of the worst crises since the World War II. From July to December 2008, she also chaired the Ecofin Council, which brings together finance ministers from the European Union. During this period, and under his leadership, unprecedented steps to support the financial system and European economies have been adopted.

Countries have until the end of this week to nominate a candidate; the IMF wants to make its final decision by June 30.

Here are 10 other things you should know about Christine Lagarde:

1. She is a mom of two children

2. Thanks to living in the U.S. for years, her English is fantastic; she is also fluent in Spanish

3. In 2009,  Lagarde was ranked 17th in the list of most influential women in the world by Forbes and 5th in the Women’s European affairs established by the Wall Street Journal Europe, and listed among the Top 100 World leaders selected by Time in 2010 for her work on Europe’s debt crisis, expanding G-8 talks to include more countries, and France’s contracting economy.

4. She was the first female chairman of the Baker & McKenzie in 1999

5. In 2007, Lagarde became the first woman of a G7 country to hold the post of Finance and Economy Minister in France

6. She was a member of the France national team synchronized swimming

7. She was the recipient of France’s highest award, the Legion d’honneur, in July 2000

8. In 2009, The Financial Times named Lagarde the top finance minister in Europe for her handling of France’s financial mess, her views on regulation and the future of banking. “I have a very strong belief that we need to address the financial regulatory issues head-on, first of all, as a top priority and if we don’t do that we’ll just be stimulating, reinforcing, throwing money at the economy, reshuffling the deckchairs,” she told the FT. “I’m not a great fan of regulation at any cost, but I honest think that better regulation in terms of actors, territories, products, rating agencies, discipline and surveillance of markets and alert system we need to put in place – all of that constitutes a platform we need to agree on as soon as possible.”

9. She is not afraid to speak her mind. She blamed the 2008 worldwide financial crisis in part, on the male-dominated, testosterone-filled culture at global banks. “Gender-dominated environments are not good … particularly in the financial sector where there are too few women,” she said in a recent interview. “In gender-dominated environments, men have a tendency to … show how hairy chested they are, compared with the man who’s sitting next to them. I honestly think that there should never be too much testosterone in one room.”

10. She has appeared on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, during which Stewart asked her if she could fire some U.S. bankers. Watch that video below.

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