A Personal Note from GBA’s President and CEO, Nancy McLernon

After much thoughtful consideration, I’ve made the (somewhat difficult but) exciting decision to step down as GBA’s CEO at the end of 2024. The timing is right. This year, we will celebrate the Global Business Alliance’s (GBA) 35th Anniversary, and not coincidentally, it will also mark 35 years here for me. As you may know, I helped form the organization in 1990 alongside Elliot Richardson. Elliot held many cabinet-level positions throughout his life but was best known as the Attorney General under President Nixon, who resigned in protest against Nixon’s order to fire the Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. It was an absolute privilege to work with and learn from him.

GBA (formerly known as the Association for Foreign Investment in America, the Association for International Investment and the Organization for International Investment) had very humble beginnings – starting with a handful of member companies, one advisor (Elliot), one full-time employee (me 😉) and an administrative temp. 

For those that were around in 1990, you’ll certainly remember the political uproar surrounding Japanese acquisitions of U.S. assets that began to ramp up in the late 1980s (NYT | Japan’s Shrewd New Investment Strategy Moves Beyond Rockefeller Center and Pebble Beach, Oct. 14, 1990). This kicked off bipartisan concern over foreign direct investment (FDI), with dozens of legislative and regulatory proposals being introduced that sought to block much of it. Policymakers certainly didn’t understand the economic benefits of FDI, recognize the names of foreign companies or grasp what they were doing in the United States. All of which made it ripe for populism to resonate. Elliot perceptively realized that a trade association exclusively representing this growing segment of the U.S. business community was needed, and he tapped me to launch it.

I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished over three and a half decades. Let me take you to 1992, when presidential candidate Bill Clinton specifically targeted foreign companies for new federal taxes (Los Angelos Times | Clinton Ad Backs Taxing Foreign Firms, Oct. 23, 1992). After he became president, we built a strong grassroots campaign armed with solid facts and successfully killed the proposal. And then there have been the numerous times we’ve defeated legislation that would have required representatives of all U.S. subsidiaries to register as a “foreign agent” with the Justice Department if they wanted to talk to federal lawmakers (NPR | A ‘Toothless’ Old Law Could Have New Fangs, Thanks To Robert Mueller, Nov. 17, 2017). There’s also been repeated efforts (and our successes) to limit market access by blocking foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies (Barron’s | The Biggest Threat to Mergers Could be a Secret Government Agency, April 30, 2019). We’ve had similar victories in state capitals – particularly in the tax space as we played whack-a-mole from state to state opposing attempts to double-tax international companies. These are just a few examples of our work. 

Attempts to chase votes by blocking foreign acquisitions, efforts to alter the Foreign Agents Registration Act in hyper-response to violators and grab revenue discriminatorily from U.S. subsidiaries – along with many other similarly intended proposals – remain very real challenges today for international companies and the eight million U.S. employees who work for them. Unfortunately, both sides of the political aisle are once again embracing populist policies that reject trade liberalization and spur isolationist reactions to some FDI. 

But have hope! Over the years, we’ve learned this: Information moves perception and impacts policy decisions. This is no time for retrenchment. The U.S. economy and workforce need GBA and its members to keep fighting the good fight by pushing back on stereotypes and misinformation. I know that GBA, with its almost 200 members and a team of 16 dedicated professionals, will continue to thrive. Though I’ll be retiring from the organization, I can assure you I’ll be on the sidelines cheering it on!

I have so many people to thank for helping me and GBA along the way – including our amazing Board of Directors and GBA team (past & present). I could not have accomplished even half of our successes without that village. As I wind down my career over the next eight months, I’ll be reaching out to a lot of you to convey my appreciation, grab a meal, coffee, or drink, and certainly a laugh.

In the meantime, I’ll remain CEO until year’s end and will work diligently on a smooth transition. On that note, be on the lookout for a memo from GBA’s Board Chair and press release on succession plans. We have terrific news to share 😊!