Bank executives push for Trump official to be fired in ethics investigation

MIAMI (AP) — Executive directors of the Inter-American Development Bank voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend firing a former Trump official as president of the Washington-based institution, a person familiar with the vote said.

The move came after an investigation at the request of the banking council found that Mauricio Claver-Carone had violated ethical rules by preferring a top employee with whom he was in a romantic relationship, according to a report obtained by The Associated Press.

The recommendation to remove Claver-Carone came in a closed-door meeting of the bank’s 14 executive directors, according to the person, who insisted not to be quoted by name. The final decision to fire Claver-Carone now rests with the financial officers who sit on the Board of Governors and represent all 48 member states of the bank.

Among those pushing for Claver-Carone’s removal is the Biden administration, which said it was alarmed by Claver-Carone’s refusal to cooperate fully with an independent investigation.

“Creating a climate of fear of reprisals among staff and borrowing countries has lost the confidence of the Bank’s staff and shareholders and requires a change in leadership,” said a spokesman for the Treasury Department.

Claver-Carone remained defiant in the wake of the vote, saying in a statement that replacing him would encourage China, which joined the bank during the Obama administration.

“It is shameful that the US has commented to the press before notifying me and that it is not defending two Americans against clearly fabricated information,” he said.

The AP obtained the confidential investigative report of a law firm hired by the bank’s board to investigate an anonymous complaint of misconduct against Claver-Carone

Investigators said it is reasonable to conclude that he had been in a relationship with his chief of staff since at least 2019, when both held senior positions on the National Security Council. They said the alleged relationship at the time prompted a US official to warn that it posed a counterintelligence risk.

Exhibit A in the 21-page report is a “contract” the two allegedly drew up on the back of a placemat in the summer of 2019 while eating at a steakhouse in Medellin, Colombia. Both attended the annual meeting of the Organization of American States.

In it, they reportedly outline a timeline for divorcing their husbands and getting married. There is also a “violation clause” stating that any failure to comply with the terms would incur “sadness and heartbreak” that could only be mitigated by “candle wax and a naughty box” from an oceanfront hotel in native Miami. by Claver-Carone.

“We definitely deserve happiness. May only God separate this covenant,” the contract reads, a photo of which was provided to investigators by the woman’s former husband, who told investigators he found the placemat in her purse when she returned from the trip.

The alleged contract is one of many details in the report in which Claver-Carone fights to save his job. They include allegations that he rendezvoused at a hotel room with his chief of staff at 1 a.m., sent her a poem on Sunday morning entitled “My soul is in a hurry” and – perhaps most disturbingly – awarded her 40% pay increase in violation of the the bank’s conflict of interest policy.

Claver-Carone has questioned the veracity of the report and strongly denounced the way the review was conducted and offers no indication that he is considering resignation.

According to investigators, he has denied ever having a romantic relationship with his old right-hand man.

His chief of staff denied the allegations in the anonymous complaint, telling investigators she never violated the IDB’s code of ethics, the report said. In a written submission to the investigators, she also complained that she had been denied a fair trial.

The AP did not name Claver-Carone’s assistant because the report, which it labeled as “confidential”, has not been made public.

“Neither I nor any other IDB staff member has been given the opportunity to review the final investigation report, comment on its conclusions, or correct inaccuracies,” Claver-Carone said in a statement. Tuesday.

The findings recall accusations of ethical error against another Republican on top of a multilateral institution, former Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who resigned as head of the World Bank in 2007 for arranging a generous pay raise for his girlfriend..

The Inter-American Development Bank is the largest multilateral lender to Latin America, spending a staggering $23 billion annually on efforts to alleviate poverty in the region.

The US is the largest shareholder in the Washington-based bank, and some in the White House have made no secret of their distaste for Claver-Carone, whose election as IDB chief in the final months of Trump’s presidency broke with tradition that a Hispanic head of the bank.

Some of the more outrageous claims referenced in the report could not be substantiated by New York-based Davis Polk. The law firm also found no evidence that Claver-Carone knowingly broke the bank’s travel policy to cover up a romantic relationship, or retaliated against bank employees, as alleged in an anonymous complaint sent to the bank’s board in March. was sent.

Still, Davis Polk vehemently criticized Claver-Carone and his chief of staff for not fully cooperating with their investigation, considering it a violation of banking policy and principles.

For example, the report stated that Claver-Carone had not handed over his bank-issued cell phone for analysis, although he did provide a forensic report conducted by a consultant. Claver-Carone also did not share messages from his personal phone or Gmail account with his chief of staff, the report said.

“Particularly in light of their failure to cooperate, it would be reasonable to conclude that the evidence of a previous relationship, and the additional circumstantial evidence of a current relationship while both were with the Bank, constituted a violation of applicable law. Forming banking policies,” the report said.

Davis Polk’s report states that Claver-Carone increased his assistant’s salary by 40% within a year. It said one of the pay raises and a title change was ordered by Claver-Carone a day after an email exchange complaining that she was not getting enough respect from her colleagues.

“You figure it out. It’s your bank,” she wrote, according to the report.

Davis Polk, who also conducted the investigation that led to Andrew Cuomo’s resignation as New York governor, accused Claver-Carone of making employment decisions about someone he believes had a romantic relationship. However, it said other executives received similar raises and that its chief of staff’s current salary of $420,000 is in line with her predecessor’s compensation.

When confronted with photos of the placemat’s alleged “contract” during an interview this month, Claver-Carone told investigators he had never seen the document and denied that it was his handwriting or signature. He stated that the document was fraudulent and part of a plan by his assistant’s ex-husband to harm her.

In a letter to the bank’s general counsel, seen by AP, the chief of staff’s divorce attorneys said her former husband had a history of cruelty and revenge that emerged in divorce proceedings. They said any evidence he provided to the investigators should not be considered credible.

However, two independent handwriting experts, one who previously worked for the FBI, concluded there was a high probability that the handwriting on the placemat — excerpts of which appear in the report — matched Claver-Carone’s handwriting in bank documents. Claver-Carone declined to submit a handwriting sample as part of the investigation, the report said.

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AP writer Fatima Hussein contributed to this report from Washington.

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Joshua Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman

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