World Bank investigates its LGBT advocate

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World Bank employee Fabrice Houdart is under investigation for allegedly leaking a draft policy for establishing human rights and environmental safeguards for loans.

Houdart, who was the president of the bank’s LGBT employee organization, stepped down from the position earlier in April. He made headlines in November 2014 when he quantified the costs of homophobia and transphobia, showing that LGBT equality is more profitable. The World Bank also affirmed its pro-equality position in February 2014, when it decided to turn down a $90 million loan to Uganda because of their anti-LGBT laws, a move that many LGBT advocates applauded.

More recently, Houdart has been a whistleblower. He has urged the bank to pay closer attention to how the bank’s lending policies impact the LGBT community worldwide, and also maintained an internal blog that was highly critical of the bank’s president.

In October 2014, he uncovered that the bank’s chief financial officer, Bertrand Badré, had received a $94,000 bonus just as Jim Yong Kim, the bank’s president, announced plans to lay off hundreds of employees to cut $400 million from the bank’s budget. This culminated in employee protests that forced Kim to hold a town hall meeting; ultimately, Badré gave up the bonus.

The bank also announced a no-retaliation policy—and this is where the story gets interesting.

Officially, Houdart is under investigation by the bank for allegedly leaking a draft policy in 2014, but he claims that the real reason is in retaliation for the whistleblowing. The executive director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), Beatrice Edwards, said in a statement, “We’re looking into the possibility that the actions taken with respect to him by the bank are discriminatory and retaliatory.”

Especially noteworthy is the fact that the inquiry was announced after he published a blog where he questioned the amount of money that was paid to Lock Lord, a law firm that was hired to review allegations of the bank’s leaders possible mishandling of a $1 billion loan to China. This is further complicated by the rumor that Houdart was planning to run for president of the staff association.

Bank president Kim cannot comment on the investigation. Previously, he said, “We have a zero tolerance policy for retaliation in this and every other case. In fact, we have made it a point to require training for retaliation for everybody. I took it myself.”

429Magazine

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