Key report is used by banks, businesses to evaluate risk of doing business

The World Bank is canceling a prominent report on business conditions around the world after investigators found staff members were pressured by the bank’s leaders to alter data about China and some other governments, The Associated Press reports.

The bank said Thursday it would discontinue “Doing Business” following an investigation prompted by internal reports of “data irregularities” in its 2018 and 2020 editions and possible “ethical matters” involving bank staff.

Staff members changed data on China to improve its ranking under pressure from the office of then-World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and from then-Chief Executive Kristalina Georgieva and one of her advisers, an investigation conducted by Washington law firm WilmerHale for the bank concluded.

Georgieva, now director of the International Monetary Fund, said she disagreed with the findings.

“I disagree fundamentally with the findings and interpretations of the Investigation of Data Irregularities as it relates to my role in the World Bank’s Doing Business report of 2018,” Georgieva said in a statement.

Timothy Ash, senior emerging market sovereign strategy strategist at fixed income manager BlueBay Asset Management, said he “cannot overestimate” the importance of the Doing Business report for banks and businesses trying to assess risk in a particular country.

“Any quantitative model of country risk has built this in to ratings,” he said. “Money and investments are allocated on the back of this series.”

He added that if an analyst at a bank or rating agency had done what is alleged, “I wager they would be fired and would be subject to regulatory investigation.”

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