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Nelson W. Cunningham

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Nelson Cunningham

Nelson W. Cunningham is Vice Chair and Co-Founder of McLarty Associates.

Mr. Cunningham helped co-found McLarty Associates in 1998 and served as its first president until 2022, when he transitioned into the role of Vice Chair. Under Mr. Cunningham’s leadership, McLarty Associates developed into a firm with global reach and over one hundred employees and advisors in 21 countries around the world.

As Vice Chair, Mr. Cunningham continues to provide counsel on the strategic direction for McLarty Associates. He is also responsible for guiding our new relationship with Ankura Consulting Group and for helping ensure that we bring to our clients the broadest range of regional expertise and transnational perspectives.

Prior to co-founding McLarty Associates in 1998, Mr. Cunningham served in the White House as Special Advisor to President Clinton on Western Hemisphere affairs and as General Counsel at the White House Office of Administration. He previously served as General Counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee, under then-Chairman Joseph R. Biden. Before moving to Washington, Mr. Cunningham served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1988 until 1994, having been hired by Rudolph Giuliani, and in 1984 he was a staffer on the successful Senate campaign of John Kerry.

Mr. Cunningham is active on foreign policy and political matters and frequently speaks to audiences in the United States and abroad. He is a frequent commentator on legal and political issues, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, Fox, NPR and other news programs, and he has written for The Washington Post, POLITICO, and The Wall Street Journal, among many others.

He is a past member of the State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy and the Secretary of State’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board, and is the former Chairman of the Export-Import Bank Advisory Committee. He served as a volunteer advisor to the Biden For President campaign, and was a member of the Obama-Biden Transition Team and a foreign policy and trade advisor to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, as well as to several other Senate and political campaigns.

Additionally, Mr. Cunningham serves as Vice Chairman of the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU) and is a member of the boards of Yale-NUS College in Singapore, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the American Security Project, the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, and the Institute of the Americas. He is also a member of the Yale President’s Council on International Activities and the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as the national leadership council of the News Literacy Project. A lawyer by training, Mr. Cunningham is a member of the DC, New York, and Massachusetts bars.

Mr. Cunningham is a magna cum laude graduate of Yale College and Stanford Law School, where he served as an editor of the Stanford Law Review. He was raised in Latin America and has lived in seven different countries throughout the region. Mr. Cunningham speaks Spanish fluently and French passably.