Burson-Marsteller (now known as Burson Cohn & Wolfe)

Profile: Burson-Marsteller (now known as Burson Cohn & Wolfe)

1- Name of NGO:

Burson-Marsteller (now known as Burson Cohn & Wolfe)

2- Brief & Mission:

Burson Cohn & Wolfe, a globally operating public relations and communications company, is based in New York City. In February 2018, its parent company WPP Group PLC revealed the merger of its components, Cohn & Wolfe and Burson-Marsteller. This amalgamated entity was subsequently rebranded as Burson Cohn & Wolfe.

The largest PR agency, Burson-Marsteller, has been enlisted by Saudi Arabia to promote the concept of a ‘Muslim NATO’. Activists condemn Burson-Marsteller for allegedly being involved in downplaying human rights violations through its association with the Islamic Military Alliance.

3- Bias, Agenda & Motivation:

The United States’ Saudi Arabian lobby comprises legal experts, public relations entities, and skilled lobbyists who are directly compensated by the Saudi government. Their role is to advocate for the interests of the Saudi government to both the general public and the U.S. government. An internationally recognized public relations corporation, Burson-Marsteller, is currently under scrutiny for its alleged involvement in downplaying reported Saudi Arabian actions in Yemen, commonly referred to as war crimes. This comes after Burson-Marsteller entered into an agreement to represent a military coalition primarily led by Riyadh, often referred to as the “Muslim NATO.”

4- Links to Governments/Political Agenda:

There were conjectures about the potential engagement of Burson-Marsteller by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman to initiate a charm campaign on behalf of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism. This situation underscores the clear link between the Saudi Arabian government monarchy and the said firm.

5- Sources of Funding:

The collaboration between the company and the Saudi government was accompanied by a substantial financial arrangement. It has come to light that Burson-Marsteller received a total compensation of $3,619,286.85 for their services..

6- Activities:

Owned by the London-based WPP, the globe’s largest marketing conglomerate, Burson-Marsteller maintains a presence throughout the Middle East, including in Riyadh and Jeddah as stated on its official website. The agreement between the Saudi government and the firm involves Burson-Marsteller’s role in endorsing the Muslim alliance and its forthcoming gatherings. Nevertheless, the selection of the firm has triggered outrage among advocates for human rights. Notably, Burson-Marsteller, which prides itself on its extensive global influence, had previously engaged directly with Saudi Arabia following the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington in 2001.

7- NGO Leadership:

Donna Imperato holds the position of CEO, while Jerry Lombardo serves as the CFO at BCW.

8- Controversy:

The utilization of Western PR firms by Saudi Arabia dates back before the Yemen conflict. Lingering worries have existed that Riyadh leverages PR firms in London and Washington to divert focus from its implementation of capital punishment. Burson-Marsteller, in this context, is perceived as an instrument wielded by the Saudi government to further its own agenda.

9- Contact Details:

  • Website:https://www.bcw-global.com
  • Address:USA
  • Email: donna.imperato@bcw-global.com

10- Classification/Blacklist:

Engaging Burson-Marsteller in lobbying efforts for governments, government entities, state-supported investment funds, or individuals linked to the Saudi Arabian administration responsible for grave transgressions like war crimes, torture, arbitrary detentions, and extrajudicial executions, effectively contributes to the perpetuation of these misconducts. As a result, the firm’s affiliations with the KSA government have led to its inclusion on a list of entities of concern.

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