World News

IMF names U.S. Treasury official to No. 2 job, replacing Lipton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Thursday nominated U.S. Treasury official Geoffrey Okamoto as her top deputy, replacing longtime economist David Lipton in the key policy role.

The appointment, which was backed by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, is subject to approval by the IMF’s Executive Board, the Fund said.

Okamoto, 35, currently serves as Treasury’s acting assistant secretary for international finance and development, where he coordinates U.S. participation in the G7, the G20 and the Financial Stability Board, and oversees U.S. interaction with the IMF, the World Bank and other institutions.

The number two official has always been chosen by the United States, part of a tradition that has kept a European in the top leadership role at the Fund since its founding at the end of World War Two.

Lipton, the Fund’s longest-serving first deputy managing director, was appointed by former president Barack Obama in 2011.

Georgieva, a Bulgarian economist who took leadership of the Fund in October, announced Lipton’s departure in February as part of her first major management shake-up.

Georgieva said in a statement that Okamoto played a key role in helping to preserve the size of the IMF’s lending resources during a recent shareholding review. These talks failed to update the IMF’s shareholding structure but resulted in a deal to double the size of its crisis lending Fund, the New Arrangements to Borrow.

“I have come to know Geoffrey from his time leading U.S. Treasury’s engagement with the IMF and representing the U.S. internationally. I value highly his knowledge, diplomacy, and the good judgment he brings to tackling difficult issues,” Georgieva said in a statement.

Unlike many past officials in the IMF’s top deputy role, including Lipton and predecessor John Lipsky, Okamoto has fewer years of experience in the field and does not hold a doctorate in economics.

He holds a masters degree in public policy from Georgetown University and prior to joining Treasury in 2017, worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, first as policy director for the U.S. House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade and later as majority staff director for Senate Banking Subcommittee on Financial Institutions.

In a statement, Okamoto said he holds IMF staff “in the highest possible regard,” and is looking forward to building on his experience “to help further strengthen cooperation between the Fund and all its member countries.”

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sonya Hepinstall)