The International Monetary Fund has expressed firm backing for Managing Director Christine Lagarde after a French court ordered her to stand trial over a state payout to a businessman in 2008. 

"The executive board has been briefed on recent developments related to this matter, and continues to express its confidence in the Managing Director's ability to effectively carry out her duties," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said.

Lagarde has just began her second five-year term leading the global crisis lender.

She was ordered to be tried for her role in making a €404m payout to businessman Bernard Tapie when she was finance minister to settle his dispute with a state-owned bank.

France's highest appeals court dismissed Lagarde's challenge against the decision to try her for negligence in her handling of a dispute. 

The case was well known to the Fund's executive directors during her first term leading the Washington-based institution, and they have consistently expressed support for and confidence in her. 

Rice said in an emailed statement that it would "would not be appropriate" for the IMF to comment on the case itself.