- (Photo: Jacky Naegelen/Reuters)
Only one month into the job, new IMF chief Christine Lagarde is already facing scrutiny over a French court order on Thursday that requires an investigation into her role in a $400 million arbitration deal.
The infamous deal, which happened during her post as finance minister in her native France, dealt with the mishandled sale of the Adidas sportswear company during the 1990s.
The case involved businessman, Bernard Tapie arguing that he was cheated out of millions of dollars by the state owned Credit Lyonnais Bank when the sportswear empire was sold.
As France's finance minister at the time, Lagarde ordered a panel of judges to arbitrate the case.
Critics of the deal argue that the case should not have gone to a private arbitration authority because it involved a state owned bank.
As a result of the deal, businessman Bernard Tapie won a $400 million dollar settlement in 2008.
Tapie is a friend and vocal supporter of current French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Sarkozy's political opponents believe that the deal deliberately had a favorable outcome for Tapie, and as a result have accused Lagarde of "improper conduct."
However, Lagarde denies any wrongdoing and her lawyer told reporters, "We'll get to the bottom of things. There will no longer be the least doubt."
The IMF, which appointed her last month, has also expressed its confidence in Lagarde and her ability to fulfill her duties as managing director of the organization.
Lagarde is a trained lawyer and retired synchronized swimming star. She was the head of the Baker and McKenzie law firm in Chicago prior to returning to France in 2005 at the urging of then President Jacques Chirac.
Prior to her managing director of the IMF appointment, she worked in the French government holding cabinet positions in trade, finance, and economics.
She has been hailed as a woman of great character with the ability to win people over. She is also the first women to serve as the head of the IMF.
Before today's judgment, Lagarde stated, "If it's decided to continue with this inquiry it won't be particularly surprising. Personally, it doesn't worry me at all - I didn't benefit personally."