Investigation finds evidence of bank chief’s affair with top adviser

Bank misconduct investigation (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Investigators say they found evidence that a former Trump official who runs Latin America’s largest development bank had a romantic relationship with his chief of staff, a bond they allegedly forged in a pact scrawled on the back of a Christmas placemat. a restaurant: “We deserve absolute happiness”. .”

The Associated Press has obtained a copy of a confidential report from a law firm hired by the board of the Inter-American Development Bank to investigate an anonymous complaint of misconduct against its president, Mauricio Claver-Carone.

In it, investigators said it is reasonable to conclude that the relationship between the two had existed since at least 2019, when they both held senior positions on the National Security Council. They said the alleged relationship caused a US official at the time to warn that he posed a counterintelligence risk.

Exhibit A in the 21-page report is a “contract” the two allegedly drafted on the back of a placemat in the summer of 2019 while dining at a steakhouse in Medellin, Colombia. Both were there attending the annual meeting of the Organization of American States.

In it, they allegedly outline a timetable for divorcing their spouses and getting married. There is also a “default clause” stating that any breach of the terms would bring “sadness and anguish” that could only be mitigated with “candle wax and a naughty box” from a beachfront hotel in Claver-Carone’s native Miami. .

“We deserve absolute happiness. May only God part from this pact,” according to the contract, a photo of which was provided to investigators by the woman’s ex-husband, who told investigators he found the placemat in her bag when she returned from the trip. .

The alleged contract is one of several details in the report that have Claver-Carone fighting to save her job. They include allegations that she had a hotel room appointment with her chief of staff at 1 a.m. bank’s conflict of interest policies.

Claver-Carone has disputed the accuracy of the report, strongly denouncing the way the review was conducted and giving no indication that she is considering resigning.

According to investigators, he has denied having, now or before, been in a long-term romantic relationship with his right-hand man.

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

The AP is not naming Claver-Carone’s assistant because the report, which is labeled “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, respond to its findings, or correct inaccuracies,” Claver-Carone said in a statement Tuesday.

The findings are reminiscent of accusations of ethical lapses against another Republican at the 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 in Latin America, disbursing up to $23 billion each year in efforts to alleviate poverty in the region.

Representatives of the bank’s 48 members met Wednesday to discuss the report, but it was unclear what action, if any, they might take.

The United States is the largest shareholder in the Washington-based bank, and some inside the White House have made no secret of their distaste for Claver-Carone, whose election as IDB chief in the final months of the Trump presidency broke with tradition that a Latin American running the bank.

Some of the more lewd 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 violated the bank’s travel policies to cover up a romantic relationship, or retaliated against bank employees, as alleged in an anonymous complaint sent to the board of directors in March. from the bank.

Still, Davis Polk sharply criticized Claver-Carone and his chief of staff for not fully cooperating with his investigation, calling it a violation of the bank’s policies and principles.

For example, the report says that Claver-Carone did not turn over his bank-issued mobile phone for analysis, although he did provide a forensic report by a consultant. Claver-Carone also did not share messages from his personal phone or Gmail account with his chief of staff, according to the report.

“Particularly in light of their lack of cooperation, it would be reasonable to conclude that evidence of a prior relationship, and additional circumstantial evidence of a current relationship while both were at the Bank, constitute a violation of applicable Bank policies,” it read. The report.

The Davis Polk report says that Claver-Carone raised her assistant’s salary by 40% in one year. He said Claver-Carone ordered one of the raises and a title change a day after an email exchange in which he complained he didn’t get enough respect from his co-workers.

“You noticed. It’s his bank,” he wrote, according to the report.

Davis Polk, who also conducted the investigation that led to Andrew Cuomo’s resignation as governor of New York, blamed Claver-Carone for making employment decisions about someone with whom he believes he was romantically involved. However, he said other executives received similarly sized raises and that his chief of staff’s current salary of $420,000 is in line with his predecessor’s compensation.

Claver-Carone, when confronted with photos of the purported placemat “contract” during an interview this month, told investigators she had never seen the document and denied it was her handwriting or signature. She said 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 the AP, the chief of staff’s divorce lawyers said her ex-husband had a history of cruelty and revenge that was raised in divorce proceedings. They said any evidence he provided to investigators should not be considered credible.

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

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Joshua Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman

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