From the statement of the World Bank’s board of directors, announcing the resignation of its president, Paul Wolfowitz:

Over the last three days we have considered carefully the report of the ad hoc group, the associated documents, and the submissions and presentations of Mr. Wolfowitz. Our deliberations were greatly assisted by our discussion with Mr. Wolfowitz. He assured us that he acted ethically and in good faith in what he believed were the best interests of the institution, and we accept that. We also accept that others involved acted ethically and in good faith. At the same time, it is clear from this material that a number of mistakes were made by a number of individuals in handling the matter under consideration, and that the Bank’s systems did not prove robust to the strain under which they were placed.

Note that the board does not identify which individuals made mistakes–even after a special panel of the board concluded that Wolfowitz broke the institutions rules when he devised a lucrative compensation package for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, who worked at the Bank. This is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s remark about the Iran-contra scandal: “mistakes were made.” He, too, didn’t say who in his administration had committed the errors (such as himself). The World Bank, in this instance, took a similar tact: no blame for Wolfowitz. That was the price Wolfowitz demanded for his resignation, and board members it seemed, were quite willing to pay it.

From Wolfowitz’s statement:

I am pleased that after reviewing all the evidence the Executive Directors of the World Bank Group have accepted my assurance that I acted ethically and in good faith in what I believed were the best interests of the institution, including protecting the rights of a valued staff member.

The poorest people of the world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa deserve the very best that we can deliver. Now it is necessary to find a way to move forward.

To do that, I have concluded that it is in the best interests of those whom this institution serves for that mission to be carried forward under new leadership. Therefore, I am announcing today that I will resign as President of the World Bank Group effective at the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2007).

One question: if Wolfowitz did indeed act “ethically and in good faith,” why must he resign?

As I wrote on my own blog:

Words don’t matter at this stage. Neither the Bank nor Wolfowitz can spin the scent of scandal from the finale of the Wolfowitz affair. The Bank’s board may have accepted his claim that his actions were honorable in order to ease him out–ignoring that a special panel had concluded he broke the rules in arranging for a hefty salary boost for his girlfriend. But Wolfowitz’s (forced) departure says more than any explanatory statement from the Bank or from him. Wolfowitz had to leave because of what he did. Still, under his contract, he’s entitled to a year’s salary of $375,000 and other benefits. If he wants to help the world’s poor, perhaps he ought to donate that money to Oxfam.

Or maybe half.


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