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DSK: Did the IMF Look the Other Way?

Before he became tabloid fodder, Dominique Strauss-Kahn steered the International Monetary Fund through an epic financial crisis, even as questions mounted about his private behavior

It is not immediately obvious, upon laying eyes on Dominique Strauss-Kahn, what the source of his attraction to women is. White-haired and burly, with hooded eyes and a face often set in a sort of glowering smirk, he speaks English with a heavy French accent that gives him an almost retiring air. And yet when it came to women he was interested in, he could be unnervingly direct. While head of the International Monetary Fund, Strauss-Kahn pursued a female colleague with whom he later had an affair by repeatedly calling her into his office with the same query, as if he hadn’t listened to the answer the first time, according to a person familiar with her version of events. He proffered dinner invitations and suggestive comments along the lines of, “I don’t know why, but I like you … ” She eventually gave in but came to regret it, and later wrote to a lawyer investigating the matter: “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.”

Strauss-Kahn’s reputation as a seducer has long been an important part of his mystique, one of the layers of complexity that elevated him above the status of a mere academic and turned him into an intellectual celebrity. He seemed to lavish attention on brainy, accomplished women, integrating his affairs into his image and his professional life, making his womanizing work for him. His indiscretions were an open secret as he climbed to the highest levels of the French political establishment and international finance. From his perch as the managing director of the International Monetary Fund he was expected to swoop in to unseat Nicolas Sarkozy to become the next President of France. Now, after charges that he sexually assaulted a maid on May 14 at the New York City Sofitel, the people and institutions that indulged his lothario persona seem like enablers of increasingly questionable behavior. Strauss-Kahn has denied the charges against him. (Attempts to obtain comment from Strauss-Kahn for this story were unsuccessful.)