Government Accountability Project: Former Bank General Counsel’s Statement Challenges Wolfowitz’ ‘Recusal’

May 1, 2007
1:44 PM

CONTACT: Government Accountability Project
Bea Edwards, International Director
Phone: 202.408.0034 ext 155
Dylan Blaylock, Communications Director
Phone: 202.408.0034 ext 137, 202.236.3733 (cell)

Former Bank General Counsel’s Statement Challenges Wolfowitz’ ‘Recusal’
Another Misrepresentation by Wolfowitz and Legal Team

WASHINGTON - May 1 – Today the Government Accountability Project (GAP) is pointing out that the statement presented yesterday by Roberto Dańino, former World Bank General Counsel, to the Ad Hoc Committee investigating rule violations by President Paul Wolfowitz directly challenges Wolfowitz’ basic defense. Wolfowitz and his attorneys assert that he acted in “good faith” in trying to recuse himself from the matter involving Shaha Riza, his companion, who also worked at the Bank. The Dańino statement details that Wolfowitz, through his attorney, defined his own recusal as an offer only not to interfere in personnel matters (which would not have concerned him anyway) while maintaining unrestricted ongoing professional contact with Riza. This offer did not constitute recusal under Bank rules or in any commonly understood sense of the term and as a result, it was rejected by the ‘Deans’ of the Bank Board.

The full statement of Dańino to the Board can be found on GAP’s Web site at:

Dańino sets out the step-by-step actions that he took as General Counsel when dealing with the Riza affair. Step four details his original recommendations to Wolfowitz’ legal team regarding the best options for a fair and legal solution to the Wolfowitz/Riza problem. Dańino refers to Shaha Riza as SR and Paul Wolfowitz as PW. His lawyer is Robert Barnett (RB) of Williams & Connolly:

4. In the discussion with his [Wolfowitz’] lawyers, I indicated to them that SR would need to be removed from any position having a direct or indirect reporting line to PW. This could be achieved through termination with compensation, external secondment at the Bank's expense, or reassignment to one of the Bank units not reporting to the President, i.e., Administrative Tribunal, Evaluation Office, Inspection Panel or Executive Directors' offices.

In step five Dańino reports Barnett’s response, proposing a ‘recusal’:

5. PW's attorney rejected these alternatives and I believed had proposed instead to cure the conflict by having PW (i) recuse himself from all professional contact with SR and (ii) recuse himself from all personnel actions regarding her (emphasis added).

Step six details how Dańino attempted to clarify to Barnett what he understood the term ‘recusal’ to mean, namely that Wolfowitz would have no future involvement with Riza in matters related to professional or personnel actions.

6. Before submitting this matter, amongst others relating to his contract, for the consideration of the Deans[of the Board], I communicated in writing to RB my understanding of the above proposal, i.e., PW's recusal from both professional contact and personnel actions.

Step seven explicitly states, quoting Barnett, that Wolfowitz rejected the General Counsel’s interpretation of his ‘recusal,’ and insisted on continued professional contact with Riza:


Step eight shows that Dańino communicated this proposed ‘recusal’ to the Deans, who decided, with his counsel, that the proposal represented a violation of Bank rules prohibiting supervision of one partner or spouse by another. The board then identified for Wolfowitz and his attorney the specific rule that their proposed ‘recusal’ violated:

8. I communicated this to the Deans who determined, correctly, in my view, that the proposal was insufficient because insisting in ongoing professional contact violated Bank rules. They noted that spouses and domestic partners are required (Staff Rule 4.01, paragraph 5.02) to be excluded from any position with a direct or indirect reporting relationship or professional contact with the other spouse or partner, and that neither can be involved in any personnel actions related to the other.

In step nine Dańino states that he informed Barnett that Wolfowitz’ proposal had been rejected by the Board.

9. I informed RB that under the Bank's rules PW's proposal was unacceptable, and that the problem was not with respect to his recusal from personnel matters but rather insistence on maintaining ongoing professional contact with SR.

Step 10 then details how Wolfowitz insisted his proposal be referred to the Ethics Committee in light of the rejection.

10. PW insisted on his proposal to maintain ongoing professional contact and formally requested that the matter be referred to the Ethics Committee for resolution.

Later on in his statement, Dańino himself takes issue with Wolfowitz’ definition of “recusal,” showing how the President “wish[ed] not to comply with Bank rules.” Further, Dańino argues that Wolfowitz’ selective provision of documents to the Ad Hoc Committee concerning these communications has been carefully orchestrated to mislead.

24. The first excerpt mentions my mail to RB asking him to confirm that the President would agree to recuse himself both from professional contact and from personnel actions. However, the selected statements omit his reply which expressly indicated that the President "would not -- I repeat, not involve recusal", from professional contact with SR. The omission thus presents a half-truth that misleads the reader and hides PW's wish not to comply with Bank rules.

To illustrate how Wolfowitz and his lawyers have used Wolfowitz’ attempted “recusal” as a defense, one can look at an April 27 Washington Post article quoting Robert Bennett, now representing Wolfowitz, who stated:

We look forward to the opportunity to show that Mr. Wolfowitz acted in completely good faith and sought recusal in the matter, with the recusal request denied by the ethics committee.

“Wolfowitz and Bennett are engaging in word play with the term ‘recusal’ in order to deceive the public about what really happened. The fact is that Mr. Wolfowitz never intended to end professional contact with Shaha Riza. Wolfowitz’ ‘recusal’ was nothing of the kind,” said Bea Edwards, GAP International Program Director.

Government Accountability Project

The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and Seattle, WA.