Who Is Christine Lagarde?

Christine Lagarde is a French lawyer and politician currently serving as president of the European Central Bank (ECB). She was the first woman to hold the post of finance minister of a G-7 country and is the first female head in the history of the IMF. Forbes named her the second most powerful woman and the 22nd most powerful person in the world in 2019.

Key Takeaways

  • Christine Lagarde is a lawyer and the president of the European Central Bank.
  • She is the first woman to have a job of this title in the European Union.
  • Lagarde is a leader in the world of economics, yet is not a trained economist.
  • She is French and lives and works in Paris.
  • Lagarde ran the International Monetary Fund from 2011 until mid-2019,

Christine Lagarde

Investopedia / Lara Antal

Early Life and Education

Born January 1, 1956, in Paris, France to two language teachers, Lagarde has several accomplishments to her name and is seen as a trailblazer for women in global finance and policymaking. She completed high school in Le Havre and attended Holton Arms School in Bethesda (Maryland, USA).

She was a member of the French national synchronized swimming team as a teenager and speaks fluent French, English, and Spanish. She holds a law degree from the University of Paris X Nanterre and a master's degree from the Political Science Institute in Aix en Provence.

Notable Contributions

She was Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but relinquished her responsibilities following her nomination for the ECB position. She had held the post since July 5, 2011, and was in her second five-year term.

Lagarde began her career as an associate at the Paris office of Chicago-based law firm Baker McKenzie where she specialized in labor, anti-trust, and mergers and acquisitions. She made partner by age 31, and by age 43 she had been chosen as the international firm's first female chair.

In 2005, she joined French politics and would remain a government minister for seven years. During this period, she held the posts of trade minister, agriculture and fisheries minister, and finance minister. Lagarde was the finance minister of France during the global financial crisis and impressed world leaders with her judgment and leadership. She played a key role in the organization of the emergency EU bailout fund for banks.

Lagarde replaced Dominique Strauss-Kahn as IMF head after he was accused of sexual assault. She was confronted with the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the eurozone debt crisis, and international trade disputes among other things. She also approved a $56 billion bailout to Argentina, which was the biggest in IMF history, in 2018.

Lagarde is not an economist and was seen as an unconventional pick for the most powerful role at the ECB, especially since she had no experience as a central banker.


Under her leadership, the IMF has argued the rich should be paying higher taxes to reduce inequality, advocated for reforming the global tax system and warned about the macroeconomic effects of a few companies having outsized market power. Lagarde has warned about the danger to the global economy posed by high levels of debt in various countries.

She has also suggested central banks should consider issuing digital currencies in the future for the benefits it offers, like financial inclusion. The IMF became more vocal about climate change under Lagarde.

In the role of ECB president, her strengths are believed to be her political acumen, contacts, and ability to build consensus. However, the absence of an economics background or a discernible opinion on monetary policy means she would have to rely on financial technocrats a fair amount.

The Tapie Affair

The Tapie Affair is the biggest scandal linked to Lagarde. In 2016, a French tribunal found her guilty of negligence after she approved the payment of over 400 million euros in public funds to French tycoon Bernard Tapie, a close friend of the then prime minister, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Tapie had accused the formerly government-run Crédit Lyonnais bank of undervaluing his majority stake in Adidas when it bought it from him in 1993. The multi-million euro award granted to him by a government arbitration panel was not appealed by Lagarde.

The payout was eventually annulled, and Lagarde faced up to a year in jail and a €15,000 fine for her poor handling of the situation, but the court decided against any punishment. Tapie was acquitted of fraud charges related to this by a Paris court on July 9, 2019.

Who Is the President of the European Central Bank?

Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde is the president of the European Central Bank.

Did Christine Lagarde Go to Jail?

Christine Lagarde was accused of negligence during an economic scandal involving a wealthy French businessman, Bernard Tapie, when she approved a multi-million euro payout in public funds. But she did not serve any jail time and Tapie was acquitted in a French court of law.

Is Christine Lagarde an Economist?

No. Christine Lagarde is not a trained economist, but a lawyer. However, she is deeply experienced in economic matters due to the roles she has played at the International Monetary Fund and her current position as president of the European Central Bank.

The Bottom Line

Christine Lagarde Lagarde, who says she faced sexism and discrimination in her professional life, has been an advocate for gender inclusion and quotas for women in business. As the president of the European Financial Bank, she oversees policy and economics crucial to the European Union.

She famously said, "If it had been Lehman Sisters rather than Lehman Brothers, the world might well look a lot different today.”

Interestingly, she has always insisted on holding the title "chairman" instead of "chairperson" or "chairwoman." She says, "Insisting on marking femininity by the gender of words is ridiculous."

Article Sources
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  1. Forbes. "The World's Most Powerful People."

  2. Forbes. "The World's Most Powerful Women 2019."

  3. World Bank. "Christine Lagarde."

  4. The World Bank Group. "Christine Lagarde."

  5. International Monetary Fund. "Christine Lagarde."

  6. The New York Times. "Her Partners Can Call Her Ms. Chairman; Baker & McKenzie Takes Small Step for a Law Firm, Giant Leap for Womankind."

  7. Associated Press. "IMF Board Completes Third Review of Argentina Program."

  8. Financial Times. "The Tapie Affair -- A Timeline."

  9. France 24. "French Tycoon Bernard Tapie Acquitted of Fraud."

  10. International Monetary Fund. "Ten Years After Lehman -- Lessons Learned and Challenges Ahead."