Nelson Cunningham

Nelson W. Cunningham, JD

McLarty Associates
Member-at-Large, NAFSA Board of Directors

Nelson Cunningham co-founded McLarty Associates in 1998 and led the firm for almost 25 years.  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.  Mr. Cunningham managed the successful merger of McLarty with Ankura Consulting in 2022, and stepped away from his responsibilities at the firm in August 2023.

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 the Secretary of State’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board and the State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy, and past Chairman of the Export-Import Bank Advisory Committee.

He served as a volunteer advisor to the 2020 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 Chair of the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU).  He 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 a member of the Yale President’s Council on International Activities, the Council of the Americas, and the Council on Foreign Relations. 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.