The political theorists in France and Russia may be correct: Dominique Strauss-Kahn may have enemies that want to end his political career for nefarious agendas. If that is the case, it will certainly be discovered by the legions of former CIA operatives, former Assistant U.S. Attorneys, and private investigators on his or his heiress wife’s payroll.
One could even proffer a whole new conspiracy theory: it’s really Anne Sinclair that’s the target. Forbes Magazine estimates her net worth at $100 to $200 million. That can buy a lot of intelligence from former CIA agents who previously kept our secrets on this side of the pond. Ms. Sinclair has her own blog, penned in French but focused on the U.S. She spent the days of May leading up to the arrest of her husband, writing not so pleasant critiques of the Obama administration executing Osama bin Laden rather than taking him to trial (as a proper democracy would) and making sport of the infamous White House photo of Hillary Clinton looking shocked with her hand over her mouth as she sat with national security staff during the bin Laden mission.
But a careful assessment of the three well documented cases against Strauss-Kahn by reproaching women, spanning two continents, three countries, and eight years reveal a conspiracy of the man against himself in serial feats of self destruction, each time, up to now, remedied by his coterie of enablers. The actors in this epic tragedy are: Strauss-Kahn, Anne Sinclair, the global law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, and global public relations handlers. There is also a subplot that draws in the print dailies of New York City which are, like the U.S. economy, locked in a financial race to the bottom on a failed business model. (Similar to the complaint of Ms. Sinclair on the execution of bin Laden without a trial, first her husband and now his housekeeper accuser have been alternately tried and convicted, not in a courtroom in front of a jury armed with fact and law and first-hand testimony, but in a reckless form of front page newsprint paintball that elevates to almost civilized the bygone era of city stocks in the town square. And the public feels it is further from the truth in this case than we were two months ago.
For those who rigidly cling to the belief that the conspirators are the female accusers, a close review of the timeline and publicly available documents are in order. Surprisingly, much of this information has not been heretofore disclosed; ostensibly lost in the competitive pursuit of “hooker” and “Le Perv” bold headlines.
A talented journalist and novelist in France; a brilliant Hungarian economist now in London who is an expert on African poverty; and an immigrant from that very poverty in Guinea working as a hotel housekeeper in New York City; all have one thing in common: they think the former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and aspiring occupant of the Elysee Palace is a sexual predator.
Let’s start with the first acknowledged incident. Tristane Banon is now a 32 year old journalist with three published novels to her credit. In a February 2007 French television program, Banon recounted how Strauss-Kahn had sexually assaulted her in Paris in 2003 when she met him for a professional interview at what turned out to be an empty apartment with little more than a bed. He told her the apartment belonged to a friend. The television program bleeped Strauss-Kahn’s name when the show aired. According to Banon, at the time of the attack, she immediately reported it to her mother by phone from her car. Her mother is Anne Mansouret, a successful business woman and a colleague in Strauss-Kahn’s own Socialist Party. Her mother urged Banon not to file charges at the time of the incident. Mansouret now says she regrets that decision and has publicly urged Strauss-Kahn to seek treatment.
At the time of the alleged attack, Banon was 23; Strauss-Kahn was more than twice her age; and Banon was the close friend of Strauss-Kahn’s daughter, Camille. (Pause for a moment and reflect on what you might do if you learned that a middle-aged man had sexually attacked your young daughter’s girlfriend. Anne Sinclair did learn about this episode and defended a politician’s need to be a good “seducer.”)
Banon has recently filed criminal charges of attempted rape with law enforcement in France and has given over five hours of testimony. Her mother has given a reported six hours of testimony. Strauss-Kahn’s French lawyer, Henri Leclerc, has just filed slander charges against Banon. Strauss-Kahn has publicly called Banon’s charges “imaginary.” Banon, who appears disturbingly thin in recent photographs, told the French publication L’Express: “My only way forward, to not collapse completely, is that justice may know that I am the victim.”
Is there a basis for anything suggesting a U.S. inspired conspiracy against Strauss-Kahn in this episode? This is a French journalist who says the act occurred in 2003 on French soil. Her mother was immediately told of the event eight years ago and is a member of the same political party of Strauss-Kahn. Banon recounted her story on television in 2007, four years before the hotel housekeeper came forward in the U.S. with a new charge of attempted rape by Strauss-Kahn. The only pattern emerging here is Strauss-Kahn being charged with jumping petite women for sexual pleasure and then smearing their name through high-powered lawyers.
The next acknowledged episode in time sequence order, and perhaps the most revealing, occurs in 2008. Peroski Nagy is currently a Senior Advisor at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development but worked at the IMF when the incidents occurred.
When Strauss-Kahn arrived at the IMF in 2007, Nagy had worked there for more than two decades. On October 20, 2008 these are some of the written statements Nagy made to the law firm of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP as it conducted an investigation for the IMF on Strauss-Kahn having an affair with Nagy, his subordinate:
“Despite my long professional life, I was unprepared for the advances of the managing director of the IMF. I did not know how to handle this; as I told you, I felt ‘I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.’ ”
“Because I did not fully trust the internal processes at the [International Monetary] fund, I declined to cooperate with the fund’s initial investigation?”
“I believe that Mr. Strauss-Kahn abused his position in the manner in which he got to me?”
“I provided you the details of how he summoned me on several occasions and came to make inappropriate suggestions?”
“I fear that he is a man with a problem that may make him ill-equipped to lead an institution where women work under his command.”
Just to recap: Anne Mansouret, a colleague of Strauss-Kahn’s in the French Socialist Party, thinks he has a sex problem and needs “treatment”; Nagy, his colleague at the IMF, thinks he has a “problem” and “abused” his position. These written statements were made three years prior to the hotel housekeeper charges in New York City. In fact, they raise the serious question as to whether a woman was sexually assaulted in a hotel in 2011 because of a lax investigation at the IMF in 2008.
Despite these powerful written statements by Nagy, five days later when the report was issued by the law firm hired by the IMF, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, it made no mention of Nagy’s letter and fully exonerated Strauss-Kahn. The report flatly stated that the IMF, based in Washington, D.C., “is not governed by domestic employment laws.”
Whether a woman working on U.S. soil could be summarily barred from the protection of U.S. law is likely debatable, but it’s a handy statement by Morgan Lewis, carrying the imprimatur of a firm with over $1 billion in revenues and just under 1300 attorneys spanning the globe. What is beyond debate is that Morgan Lewis knows what constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace under U.S. law and how to put sound anti-harassment policies in place. In 1996, the firm represented the City of Boca Raton in a landmark appellate decision, Faragher v. City of Boca Raton. The case went on to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court and the decision exquisitely defines what constitutes a sexually hostile work environment and tangible employment action in retaliation for complaining, e.g. firing, demotion, etc.
Since the United States is a major financial supporter of the IMF, our Congress should investigate why the IMF effectively exonerated its chief from hitting on a subordinate and left him at the helm while she was sent on her way with a severance package.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP is one of Wall Street’s favorite law firms. Like Wall Street, the IMF has adopted the code words “Best Practices,” a euphemism meaning if your competition is getting away with something, you should be able to do the same. In many cases, “Best Practices” bear little differentiation from “Worst Practices.”
The Morgan Lewis report goes on to note that “During the course of the investigation, independent counsel [Morgan Lewis] reviewed other allegations involving the MD [Managing Director] raised by witnesses during the investigation. The investigation did not find any evidence to support other allegations of improper conduct by the MD.” Unfortunately, like the report failing to mention the smoking gun letter from Nagy, the public is deprived of knowing what these allegations were and how they were disproved. What we do know is that three years later, a lot of taxpayer money that New Yorkers can ill afford to spend is being devoted to investigating another charge of sexual misconduct by Strauss-Kahn.
When the Morgan Lewis report was released on a Saturday, October 25, 2008, the IMF held a conference call with the press. A. Shakour Shaalan, Dean of the Executive Board of the IMF, made the following remark, the last sentence being regrettably non-clairvoyant: “I’ll have to agree with you that there is a number of staff, particularly the female members, who are not at all happy and do not approve of the Managing Director’s behavior. The Managing Director as Mr. Masood Ahmed has said has expressed his regrets and I don’t think we can ask him to do more at this time other than publishing the statement that we have published?The effectiveness of the Managing Director has been proven, we will continue to work with him, and there is little doubt in my mind that while there is some confidence that may have been lost, he will regain it very soon.”
The Morgan Lewis report was called an “independent investigation” by the IMF and carries that title on its cover page. But Morgan Lewis is a corporate law firm that almost exclusively litigates against the employee on issues of workplace harassment and sexual misconduct on behalf of the corporation, municipality or organization. The firm also represents some of the largest Wall Street firms which benefit from privatization efforts imposed by the IMF.
The final case of 2011 is, of course, that of the housekeeper at the ritzy Sofitel Hotel in New York City who claims she entered the room to clean it after assurances by a coworker who had removed a room service cart that it was empty. She further claims Strauss-Kahn emerged naked from the bathroom, jumped her, attempted to rape her and then forced her to perform oral sex. The housekeeper had the sympathy and support of the press while she was being represented by her first lawyer, Jeffrey Shapiro. But that suddenly changed when she changed law firms.
In a matter of weeks, the housekeeper went from being a pious religious woman in the pages of the New York Times to a “hooker” on the front page of the New York Post. Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, the lead prosecutor for the New York County District Attorney, told the New York Times that she did not have one “scintilla” of evidence to support the hooker accusation. Her new lawyers have filed a lawsuit against the New York Post for libel. Equally troubling, her new attorneys are not making her available to the District Attorney for questioning, and bad mouthing the DA to the press.
There’s an old saying in legal circles: to find the culprit, ask who benefits. If the housekeeper is discredited and the DA is discredited, the defense team and Strauss-Kahn benefit.
Despite repeated attempts to get an answer, the new law firm, Thompson Wigdor, will not say how they came to represent the housekeeper. But one thing is beyond dispute: all three partners who started this firm, Kenneth P. Thompson, Douglas H. Wigdor, and Scott Browning Gilly sprang from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, the firm that exonerated Strauss-Kahn in the Nagy matter at the IMF. (Mr. Gilly left Thompson Wigdor this year.)
Pam Martens worked on Wall Street for 21 years, retiring in 2006. She has been writing on public interest issues for CounterPunch since that time. She has no security position, long or short, in any company mentioned in this article. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org