Bank executives call for Trump official to be fired as part of ethics probe

JOSHUA GOODMAN – Associated Press

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

The move came after an investigation at the request of the bank’s board found that Mauricio Claver-Corone violated ethics rules by favoring a top aide with whom he had a romantic relationship, according to a report obtained by The Associated Press.

The recommendation to remove Claver-Corone was made at a closed-door meeting of the bank’s 14 executive directors, according to the person, who insisted on anonymity. The final decision on Claver-Corona’s dismissal now rests with financial officials who are part of the Board of Governors and represent all 48 member countries of the bank.

Among those pushing for Claver-Coron’s ouster is the Biden administration, which has said it is concerned about Claver-Coron’s refusal to fully cooperate with the independent investigation.

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“His creation of an atmosphere of fear of retaliation among employees and borrower countries has lost the trust of the Bank’s staff and shareholders and requires a change of management,” said the spokesman of the Ministry of Finance.

After the vote, Claver-Corone remained defiant, saying in a statement that his replacement would encourage China, which joined the bank during the Obama administration.

“It is shameful that the US commented to the press before informing me, and that they did not protect two Americans from what was clearly fabricated information,” he said.

The AP has obtained a confidential investigative report from a law firm hired by the bank’s board to handle an anonymous misconduct complaint against Claver-Coron

Investigators said it was reasonable to conclude that he had 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 prompted one US official to warn at the time that it posed a counterintelligence risk.

Annex A of the 21-page report is a “contract” the two allegedly drew up on the back of a doormat in the summer of 2019 while they were dining at a steakhouse in Medellin, Colombia. Both participated in the annual meeting of the Organization of American States.

In it, they allegedly outline the terms of divorce and marriage. There’s also a “breach clause” that says any failure to meet the terms will result in “sadness and heartbreak” that can only be alleviated with “candle wax and a naughty box” from an oceanfront hotel in Claver-Corona’s native Miami.

“We deserve absolute happiness. May only God part with this covenant,” said the agreement, a photo of which was provided to investigators by the woman’s ex-husband, who told investigators he found the mat in her purse when she returned from a trip.

The alleged contract is one of several details in the report that have Claver-Corone fighting to keep her job. They include claims that he had a 1 a.m. hotel room date with the chief of staff, sent her a poem on Sunday morning titled “My Soul is in a Hurry” and — perhaps most disturbingly — rewarded her with a 40% raise in violation of the bank’s conflict of interest policy.

Claver-Carone strongly disputed the report’s accuracy condemning the manner in which the review was conducted and offering no hint that he is considering resigning.

He denied ever having — now or before — a romantic relationship with his longtime right-hand man, investigators said.

His chief of staff denied the allegations in the anonymous complaint and told investigators she never violated the IDB’s code of ethics, the report said. In a written statement to investigators, she also complained that she was denied due process.

The AP is not naming Claver-Corone’s aide because the report, labeled “confidential,” has not been released.

“Neither I nor any other IDB official was given an opportunity to review the final investigation report, respond to its findings, or correct any inaccuracies,” Claver-Corone said in statement Tuesday.

The findings echo accusations of ethics violations against another Republican who heads the multilateral institution, former Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who resigned as head of the World Bank in 2007 for organizing a generous raise to his girlfriend.

The Inter-American Development Bank is Latin America’s largest multilateral lender, spending $23 billion annually to fight poverty in the region.

The U.S. is the Washington-based bank’s largest shareholder, and some White House officials have made no secret of their distaste for Claver-Coron, whose election as head of the IDB in the final months of Trump’s presidency broke with tradition for a Latin American to lead the bank.

Davis Polk, based in New York, was unable to confirm some of the more lurid allegations mentioned in the report. The law firm also found no evidence that Claver-Carone knowingly violated the bank’s travel policy to hide a romantic relationship or retaliated against bank employees, as alleged in an anonymous complaint filed in March with the bank’s board.

Still, Davis-Polk harshly criticized Claver-Coron and his chief of staff for refusing to cooperate fully with their investigation — a violation of bank policy and principles.

For example, the report said Claver-Caron did not submit his bank-issued cell phone for analysis, although he submitted a forensic report by a consultant. Claver-Corone also did not share messages from his personal phone or Gmail account with his chief of staff, the report said.

“In particular, in light of their refusal to cooperate, it would be reasonable to conclude that the evidence of the previous relationship and the additional circumstantial evidence of the current relationship, when they were both with the Bank, is a violation of the current policy of the Bank,” – it said.

The Davis Polk report said Claver-Corone raised his assistant’s salary by 40% within a year. It said one of the raises and title changes was ordered by Claver-Coron a day after she exchanged emails in which she complained about a lack of respect from her colleagues.

“You will figure it out. This is your bank,” she wrote, according to the report.

Davis Polk, who also led the investigation that led to the resignation of Andrew Cuomo as New York governor, accused Claver-Coron of making hiring decisions for a man with whom he is believed to have had a romantic relationship. However, other executives were said to have received similar raises, and his chief of staff’s current salary of $420,000 is in line with her predecessor’s compensation.

Confronted with photos of the alleged “contract” on the stand, Claver-Carone told investigators during an interview this month that he had never seen the document and denied it was his handwriting or signature. He claimed the document was forged and part of a scheme 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 ex-husband had a history of cruelty and revenge, which was brought up during the divorce proceedings. They said any evidence he presented to investigators should not be considered credible.

However, two independent handwriting experts, one of whom used to work for the FBI, concluded that there was a high probability that the handwriting on the mat — excerpted in the report — matched Claver-Coron’s handwriting on the bank documents. Claver-Corone declined to provide a handwriting sample as part of the investigation, the report said.

AP writer Fatima Hussain contributed to this report from Washington.

Joshua Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman

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