Is Lagarde getting off too lightly?

France's Law Court of the Republic has found IMF head Christine Lagarde guilty of negligence in dealing with tax money during her time as French finance minister. Lagarde authorised a multi-million euro state payment to entrepreneur Bernard Tapie, who supported then president Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign. The court, however, refrained from handing down punishment. The press is incensed.

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Blog Pitsirikos (GR) /

Not everyone gets off so lightly

Blogger Pitsirikos sees the ruling on IMF chief Christine Lagarde as completely unfair:

“A court has found Lagarde guilty of negligence that cost the French state 400 million euros, yet it didn't hand down a sentence. How nice it must be to be found guilty yet escape punishment! Negligence, what a pretty word! Negligence refers to inattentiveness or carelessness. … Naturally this negligence doesn't apply for everyone. It only applies for the elite. The law is selective, so there is no justice. Lagarde will continue to torment countries and peoples as head of the IMF, but naturally she won't forgive any 'negligence' on their part.”

La Tribune de Genève (CH) /

Grist to the mill of populists

How can the Paris court make such a wrong decision? La Tribune de Genève asks incensed:

“This is more than an accident, it's a disaster. ... Six months ahead of a presidential election whose outcome is unprecedentedly uncertain in view of the cold wind of populism, this verdict is a boon to extremists of all stripes. ... The Law Court of the Republic has justified the unjustifiable. This court, half-way between politics and the judiciary, created to judge ministers accused of committing offences in the course of their duties, has calmly stated that the international reputation of the IMF chief and the circumstances during her time as minister - the financial crisis - exempt her from punishment. From a legal standpoint that is incomprehensible. It means the higher your rank, the more your guilt goes unpunished. From a political point of view that is catastrophic.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

A further blow to trust

IMF chief Lagarde should resign, the Tages-Anzeiger demands:

“It's true that the trial in Paris has nothing to do with her job as IMF chief, but it doesn't have to either. The French politician stands for everything that has gone wrong with the monetary fund in the last few years in Europe and with Europeans in charge. The consequence is a colossal distrust on the part of all non-European member states vis-à-vis the fund. If Lagarde insists on staying in her post this distrust will only grow. The IMF has invested most of its funds in recent years in comparatively rich Europe. And as an independent inspecting authority of the IMF noted this summer, the fund's money management has been disastrous. It has allowed Europe's politicians to twist it round their little finger when it comes to things like the Greek bailout, and as a result it has cast to the wind the risk standards on loans.”

Financial Times (GB) /

IMF can't afford leadership debate now

Given the challenges the IMF currently faces Christine Lagarde should stay in office, the Financial Times stresses:

“The last thing the IMF now needs is a leadership vacuum. There is a running debate over the process by which the managing director is appointed - and justified resentment among emerging markets of the convention by which the post is given to a European. This is not the moment to resolve such questions. The Greek bailout is at a delicate juncture, and Donald Trump’s election raises much broader questions over the future of the international financial institutions. Ms Lagarde has suffered a humiliation but she deserves to stay in post.”

L'Obs (FR) /

Court should have been clearer in its ruling

The Law Court of the Republic comprised of judges and parliamentarians has done more harm than good with its ruling, L'Obs believes:

“In view of the prevailing spirit of populism, this indecisive verdict which the people will have a hard time understanding is no doubt the worst possible outcome. It has rekindled the protest against the elite networks that protect themselves and ensure their own impunity. The Law Court would have done better to come down clearly on one side or the other: either by sentencing Christine Lagarde (this is no trifling matter: 400 million euros of taxpayers' money - the equivalent of the healthcare deficit), or by ruling that although she was politically negligent that does not constitute a criminal offence. ... In the end the members of the court did a service neither to Christine Lagarde (who could lose her position at the IMF), nor to the court's already fragile credibility.”