Today heralds a decision that could see Paul Wolfowitz’s future at the World Bank rather quickly curtailed. In highly charged politic situations such as this, it is easy for facts to get overtaken by technicalities that detract from appropriately understanding the situation.
At the heart of this issues lies the fact that Paul Wolfowitz had a conflict of interest but still acted. This is manifestly inappropriate and he needs to step down as he has undermined his own credibility and the credibility of the position he holds, and by extension, the credibility of the World Bank. Drawing a similarity to corporate law, a company director who doesn’t absent himself or herself from a decision where there is a conflict of interest is in a lot of trouble. Dealing with conflicts of interest in business can be painful, but they are of secondary concern to the potential for undermining the integrity of decision making within a business. Regardless of the size of the matter, there is an important principle here. Surely if such duties on directors are so important, then one imagines that they should be more onerous for those that occupy positions such as the Head of the World Bank. By trying to hide his actions does nothing other than reaffirm the thoughts of those that believe he needs to go.