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In a statement released through US strategic communications firm SKDK rather than through the IMF, Georgieva, who took the top job at the Washington-based crisis lender in 2019, pledged changes to her management style.

"As much as I have strived to be open and inclusive, I was very sorry to learn that some staffers felt their concerns were not heard. Moving forward, I will make sure to be even more attentive to hearing staff views," she wrote.

The probe from an outside law firm found that Georgieva along with her associate Simeon Djankov, a former Bulgarian finance minister who created the report, and Jim Yong Kim, then-president of the bank, pressured staff to change the calculation of China's ranking to avoid angering Beijing.

The push came while bank leadership was engaged in sensitive negotiations with Beijing over increasing the bank's lending capital.

Nobel Laureate Paul Romer, who was chief economist for the World Bank during her time there and later resigned after raising separate concerns about the Doing Business rankings, told AFP "the kind of intimidation this report describes was real" and said Georgieva arranged a "whitewash" of his criticisms.

Shanta Devarajan, a former acting chief economist of the World Bank, defended Georgieva, writing on Twitter that she specified that China's data should be verified without compromising the rankings' integrity.

"The changes to China's score were either correcting coding errors or judgment calls on questions where judgment was required," he said on Thursday.

"At no point did I feel I was being pressured," he said, adding the allegation Georgieva tampered with the data "is beyond credulity."

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