Skip to main content

IMF chief enjoys generous salary, perks

By Brian Todd and Dugald McConnell, CNN
Click to play
IMF head's life of luxury
  • Strauss-Kahn paid $521,100 plus entertainment expenses
  • Entertainment, travel, hotel are covered for him
  • Critics say taxpayers in borrower nations pay for his lifestyle
  • Analyst calls his compensation reasonable compared to Wall Street bankers

Don't miss Brian Todd's full report today at 5 p.m. ET on "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

(CNN) -- For Dominique Strauss-Kahn, life inside an 11-foot by 13-foot Rikers Island cell, however temporary, was a major change. For years, Strauss-Kahn had enjoyed every bit of the upper-crust lifestyle, salary and perks that come with his job as managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

According to his contract, Strauss-Kahn's salary in 2010 was $441,980.00. That's more than President Barack Obama makes, and Strauss-Kahn pays no taxes on his income. In addition, Strauss-Kahn receives a yearly allowance of $79,120.00 in monthly installments which, the contract says, comes "... without any certification or justification by you, to enable you to maintain, in the interests of the Fund, a scale of living appropriate to your position as Managing Director."

That's separate from entertainment expenses, which, according to the contract, he's reimbursed for. Travel and hotel expenses, for Strauss-Kahn and his wife, are covered by the IMF. It's in Strauss-Kahn's contract that he and anyone in his family fly first class, whenever he's on official business. Details of Strauss-Kahn's contract are posted on the IMF's website.

"In the Arena": Alleged victim afraid for her life

For critics of the IMF, the salary and perks are hard to take -- especially, they say, given that the institution imposes stark conditions on the governments it lends money to.

Embattled IMF chief resigns post
Sex, press and politics in France
IMF chief's case, public's right to know
IMF head close to making bail

"Not only are taxpayers in borrowing countries paying that salary; but then they're actually having to pay the costs in a second way, which is that they have to undertake the policies that the IMF demands, which often hurt particularly ordinary working-class people," said Peter Chowla of the Bretton Woods Project, a watchdog that monitors the policies of the IMF and World Bank. It's taxpayers in countries hard-hit by the global recession, such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal, who feel the pinch more than most, he said.

Contacted by CNN, IMF spokesman William Murray said in an e-mail that Strauss-Kahn was moving the IMF away from reliance on lending to finance its operations. "Our pay is linked to comparators in various markets," Murray said, and "our pay is authorized by our shareholders each year." He added that pay increases for Strauss-Kahn and other IMF executives are below the rate of inflation.

The IMF does not pay for Strauss-Kahn's lavish house in Washington nor for any of the other properties his family reportedly owns, Murray told CNN. The Washington house, nestled at the end of a leafy street in the upper-crust Georgetown neighborhood, has an assessed value of just under $4 million, according to real estate records. Those records show the house is registered in the name of Strauss-Kahn's wife, Anne Sinclair.

According to The New York Times, the couple also owns two apartments in France worth several million dollars and a house in Marrakesh, Morocco, bought for more than $700,000. Anne Sinclair, who was a popular television personality in France, is reported to have inherited a fortune from her grandfather, a wealthy art merchant. That may explain why Strauss-Kahn's living arrangements seem to be beyond even his generous salary and benefits.

Residing on Rikers Island

Murray says no IMF employees who live in the U.S., get housing allowances. IMF employees who live abroad do receive such allowances. IMF employees who live in the U.S. do get subsidies to pay for their children's schools.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is accused of sexual assault and attempted rape of a 32-year-old Guinean-born maid in a New York hotel room. Strauss-Kahn's attorneys deny the accusations and say this is a "very defensible case."

For some analysts, Strauss-Kahn's salary and benefits are not excessive. John Sewell, an analyst with the New Rules for Global Finance Coalition, said, "I don't have a problem with the salary. I think this is one of the world's most important jobs. And it's reflected by the fact that Dominique Strauss-Kahn played an absolutely central role in dealing with the global financial crisis that we hopefully are moving out of in the next couple of years."

Strauss-Kahn, Sewell said, is "a dominant figure. He changed the Fund. The Fund, when he took over, was faced with being an irrelevant organization. Nobody wanted to borrow money from the Fund, and he's reformed it drastically. He's compensated for that, what some people would think is well-compensated, but compared to Wall Street bankers it's a relatively small amount of money."

But Strauss-Kahn was battling perceptions about his lifestyle even before the incident in New York. Earlier this month, a snapshot of him getting into a $90,000 Porsche gave his critics an opportunity to call him a "caviar socialist," although the car is not believed to be his.

Watch The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer weekdays at 4pm to 6pm ET and Saturdays at 6pm ET. For the latest from The Situation Room click here.