Published November 17, 2014
Editor's Note: The following is an Oct. 20, 2008, letter from Piroska Nagy, who had a brief affair with the International Monetary Fund's Dominique Strauss-Kahn, to Robert Smith, who was hired by the IMF to investigate Nagy's claims of abuse of power by Strauss-Kahn.
Dear Mr. Smith,
I feel I must write to you following the disastrous leak to the press of certain aspects of your investigation into a possible abuse of power by the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. As you well know, my overriding objective following the unfortunate events of December 2007 and January 2008 had been to avert, at any cost, publicity that would damage my family, my friends, and my community, or for that matter Mr. Strauss-Kahn. For this reason, and because I did not fully trust the internal processes at the Fund, I declined to cooperate with the Fund’s initial investigation.
When the Fund hired you as an independent investigator, I overcame my deep aversion to discussing anything of this nature with outsiders as well as my concerns over possible leaks, and reluctantly decided to cooperate with your investigation. But you will recall that I expressed to you my grave concern that information might leak out, and that we agreed on certain ground rules to minimize the likelihood of leaks, such as referring to me in his report only as a “female staff member.” In the course of a six-hour interview with you and your staff, I was asked about the start and lead-up to the relationship, and very detailed questions about the circumstances under which I resigned from the Fund. I answered those questions according to my best recollection and knowledge. I was never asked about my opinion of Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s conduct, which, I believe, was the proper approach, since you told me that the objective of your investigation was only to determine the facts surrounding the case.
However, the press leak leading to the Wall Street Journal article on October 18 has confirmed my fears about the whole process. The reporter revealed that he had been tipped off by an Executive Board member, not someone outside the IMF. I was told the same about a month ago by a journalist from the Washington Post who attempted to talk to me. The number of people in the Board privy to the details of this case is, as far as I know, limited. In my view, it is incumbent upon you to request a special investigation of these serious leaks so as to ensure the integrity of the governance process of this case.
In addition, I am concerned that the press reports have been incomplete and inaccurate. It has been widely reported that there was a “consensual” relationship, and that the only issue under investigation is the circumstances of my departure. In a particularly regrettable and inexplicable action, a blog by Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s wife referred to “this one-night stand” (“cette aventure d’un soir”). But no one, including the Fund, has clarified that the nature of the relationship, and whether Mr. Strauss-Kahn abused his power in that regard, was also under investigation. More recently allegations of a “set-up” have surfaced in the French media. All of this leads to the erroneous impression that the only issue under investigation is the circumstances of my departure.
The circumstances of my departure and the size of my severance package are a non-issue, as you undoubtedly know from your investigation. Out of my respect for your process, I have refrained from making any statement to the press about my view of the real issue at hand: the conduct of Mr. Strauss-Kahn. So that there can be no mistake about my views, I want to set them out for you in writing.
I believe that Mr. Strauss-Kahn abused his position in the manner in which he got to me. I provided you the details of how he summoned me on several occasions and came to make inappropriate suggestions to me. Despite my long professional life, I was unprepared by advances by the Managing Director of the IMF. I did not know how to handle this; as I told you I felt that I was “damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.” After a period I made the serious mistake of letting myself sucked into a very short affair. But it is, in my view, incontestable that Mr. Strauss-Kahn made use of his position to obtain access to me.
Following the end of the relationship, I was not pressured by Mr. Strauss-Kahn to leave in any way, although his lawyer and my lawyer did discuss whether I was to take a severance package. This conversation, which was reported to me, did not feel very pleasant, but it made sense that he, just as I (or my husband), would feel more comfortable not working in the same institution. I had also good job offers in London and was very happy to accept one at my present firm, where I had worked a few years ago. The financial package also provided good incentives for leaving, as indicated by the large over-subscription for the Fund’s severance package, but as you know I received no special benefits.
In closing, let me share with you my utter personal sadness, distress, and sorrow for all that has happened. In the end, my approach of trying at all costs to avoid any publicity regarding this matter failed. There are only losers in this for those directly involved. My husband and I are paying the price of public humiliation, and Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s reputation is also damaged. For what it is worth, I consider Mr. Strauss-Kahn a brilliant leader with a vision for addressing the ongoing global financial crisis. He is also an aggressive if charming man. He is from a country, France, which I love and adore, and where I have many good friends. But I fear that he is a man with a problem that may make him ill-equipped to lead an institution where women work under his command.
I look forward to the outcome of your investigation.
Piroska M. Nagy