A Media Gunslinger For The World Bank

The World Bank, which has been getting bad press lately, has tapped an aggressive public-relations consultant to refurbish its image. Herbert Schmertz, the in-your-face former Mobil Oil spokesman, has hired on with a one-year contract that World Bank sources put at $200,000. Schmertz, 63, won notice during the 1970s for the scathing advertorials Mobil ran in newspapers, flaying journalists and officials who knocked Big Oil.

The World Bank has long styled itself as the Mother Teresa of financial institutions, providing loans to the world's poorest nations. But lately it has caught grief for trimming back on Third World lending and for backing development projects derided by environmentalists. Plus, critics slam the new addition to its Washington headquarters, now running $100 million over budget.

And though his image-buffing plan isn't in place yet, some bank officials are already leery. "We're a genteel, low-key place, and you've got this gung ho press-basher aboard," says one bank staffer. Schmertz says only: "The World Bank hired me to help them."

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