Paul Wolfowitz’s future as World Bank president hung in the balance yesterday after the bank’s board issued a damaging finding on his role in the Riza affair and promised to reach a decision on what steps to take next “expeditiously”.
The promise of further action kept up pressure on Mr Wolfowitz to step down of his own accord to avoid possible censure for securing a large pay rise and promotion for Shaha Riza, a former bank official with whom he was romantically involved.
Late on Friday, though, there was no indication that the board was ready to try to force Mr Wolfowitz to quit, or that the bank president – who issued a public apology on Thursday – was ready to give up the fight.
Pressure on Mr Wolfowitz mounted when the bank’s former top legal officer confirmed to the FT that he told the board’s ethics committee there was no serious legal risk to the bank if it offered Ms Riza a severance package, rather than the attractive secondment deal that Mr Wolfowitz eventually dictated, challenging one justification Mr Wolfowitz gave a day earlier for his actions.
World economic leaders gathering in Washington for the semi-annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF were tight-lipped over Mr Wolfowitz’s future.
Trevor Manuel, South Africa’s finance minister, said political leaders should avoid rushing to judgment: “We must not behave like a kangaroo court.”