The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) became an object of scrutiny when the Norwegian delegation put forth evidence that the BIS was involved in war crimes.
The BIS, formed in 1930, was originally primarily intended to facilitate settling financial obligations arising from the peace treaties that concluded the First World War.
John Maynard Keynes first proposed the ICU (International Clearing Union) in 1941, as a way to regulate the balance of trade. His concern was that countries with a trade deficit would be unable to climb out of it, paying ever more interest to service their ever-greater debt, and therefore stifling global growth. The ICU would effectively be a bank with its own currency (the "bancor"), exchangeable with national currencies at a fixed rate. It would be the unit for accounting between nations, so their trade deficits or surpluses could be measured by it.
Early in the Second World War, John Maynard Keynes of the British Treasury and Harry Dexter White of the United States Treasury Department independently began to develop ideas about the financial order of the postwar world. After negotiation between officials of the United States and United Kingdom, and consultation with some other Allies, a "Joint Statement by Experts on the Establishment of an International Monetary Fund," was published simultaneously in a number of Allied countries on April 21, 1944.
On May 25, 1944, the U.S. government invited the Allied countries to send representatives to an international monetary conference, "for the purpose of formulating definite proposals for an International Monetary Fund and possibly a Bank for Reconstruction and Development".
The United States also invited a smaller group of countries to send experts to a preliminary conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to develop draft proposals for the Bretton Woods conference. The Atlantic City conference was held from June 15–30, 1944.
The conference was held from July 1 to 22, 1944. Agreements were signed that, after legislative ratification by member governments, established the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The main goal of the conference was to achieve an agreement on the IMF. Enough consensus existed that the conference was also able to achieve an agreement on the IBRD. Doing so required extending the conference from its original closing date of July 19, 1944 to July 22.
The Articles of Agreement for the IMF and IBRD signed at Bretton Woods did not come into force until ratified by countries with at least 80 percent of the capital subscriptions ("quotas"). The threshold was reached on December 27, 1945.
The institutions (IMF and IBRD) were formally organized at an inaugural meeting in Savannah, Georgia, on March 8–18, 1946.