Former law professor appointed to International Monetary Fund reform committee

Kenneth Dam, professor emeritus at the Law School has been appointed to an IMF committee to enhance internal functioning.

By Hannah Fine

Kenneth Dam, professor emeritus of American and foreign law at the University’s Law School, has been appointed to a governance reform committee for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an organization that monitors the international financial system and at times acts as a lender to member countries.

The goal of the committee will be to enhance the IMF’s internal functioning, according to Dam.

“My responsibilities are simply to participate in the deliberations and the drafting of the report. We expect to have at least six meetings—we have already held two—and of course we also participate through e-mails,” he said in an e-mail interview.

Composed of 185 member countries, the IMF was formed in 1944 to stabilize exchange rates and enable countries to borrow money on a short-term basis. But since the IMF has more than quadrupled in size since its inception, the organization has lately begun to adapt in order to better suit its increased role.

Dam’s committee will critique the IMF’s existing decision-making process and offer suggestions for improvements. Other committee members include Indonesia’s minister of finance, a professor at Harvard University, and the governor of the Bank of Mexico, among others.

Managing Director of the IMF Dominique Strauss-Khan organized the group in September and hopes to have its opinions by April.

Dam is no stranger to the IMF. Since 1960, he has taught at the U of C’s Law School, including many courses on the IMF. His influence also extends beyond the ivory tower. He worked with IMF management during two years at the U.S. Treasury earlier in the decade and three years at the U.S. Department of State in the 1980s. In 1981, Dam published The Rules of the Game: Reform and Evolution in the International Monetary System, which explores the history of the international monetary system and devotes a number of chapters to the IMF.

In light of the current economic instability, Dam said that the IMF plays a vital role.

“The present international financial crisis speaks volumes about the importance of international cooperation in monetary and financial matters,” he said.

Dean of the Law School Saul Levmore praised the IMF’s decision to select Dam.

“Ken Dam is one of the most sophisticated and knowledgeable people in the world on matters relating to trade, international finance, and institutions,” he said. “He is a natural for this position, and we are all fortunate that he is willing to serve. A small bit of icing on the cake is the great pride the University of Chicago Law School takes in him.”