During the 1990s, reforms concerned with ‘good governance’ became popular with multilateral and bilateral lenders. This trend was led by the World Bank, which claimed that in order to achieve economic development, institutions mattered. This article looks at governance reforms in Argentina, specifically in the judicial sector, and contends that World Bank involvement affected the nature, reach and depth of these initiatives. The influence of the Bank can be traced through three dimensions that have characterized its approach to institutional reform: donor-driven designs for project reform; reliance on technical approaches; and restricted forms of decision making in project initiatives. Such an approach to institutional change conditioned domestic reform in Argentina and contributed to piecemeal and inadequate initiatives. The author also argues that the Bank's approach in Argentina can be traced to wider strategies that derive from embedded institutional practices and ideological foundations within the institution that throw into question the Bank's capacities to promote such reforms.