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Business backlash to Trump's travel ban

Several business leaders tapped to advise President Donald Trump have denounced a temporary travel ban against citizens of seven foreign nations.

Trump's Jan. 27 executive order sparked protests at airports across the U.S. over the weekend, and many industry leaders, particularly technology CEOs, disparaged the order as anti-competitive. Even business leaders who have promised to collaborate with the president's administration expressed concern about the action. Trump previously tapped 19 business leaders to form a strategic policy forum. S&P Global Market Intelligence requested comment from all 19 leaders, and none issued a statement of support. The vast majority of the executives either declined to comment or did not immediately respond to the request for comment.

The Cleveland Clinic of Ohio, whose CEO Toby Cosgrove is a member of Trump's strategic and policy panel, issued a Jan. 29 statement saying the action "has caused a great deal of uncertainty and has impacted some of our employees who are traveling overseas." JPMorgan Chase & Co. on Jan. 30 released a memo shared with its employees expressing "unwavering commitment to the dedicated people working here" and offering support for any affected employee. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is also a member of the policy panel. The panel is chaired by Blackstone Group LP CEO Stephen Schwarzman; a company representative said there was no statement on the issue.

Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber Technologies Inc. and a late addition to the policy forum, issued a statement saying the company would establish a $3 million legal defense fund for any of its drivers affected by the policy. "This ban will impact many innocent people — an issue that I will raise this coming Friday when I go to Washington for President Trump's first business advisory group meeting," Kalanick said in a statement. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, also a member of the forum, posted on Twitter that the action was "not the best way to address the country's challenges."

Other executives who advise Trump on different panels also disavowed the executive order, which temporarily bans entry to the United States for nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields, who agreed to work on Trump's manufacturing initiative, issued a statement saying the company does not support the policy, Business Insider reported. Merck & Co. Inc. CEO Kenneth Frazier is also a member of the manufacturing panel, and his company issued a statement that it was reviewing the policy and any implications.

"We are committed to our employees of all nationalities and religions," a Merck spokeswoman told S&P Global Market Intelligence. Elsewhere in pharmaceuticals, Allergan PLC CEO Brent Saunders expressed opposition to any policy that limits the company's ability to attract the best talent, calling diversity an area of strength for the company in a Jan. 29 post on Twitter.

Several financial industry leaders not connected with the administration also came out with statements opposing the plan. Michael Corbat, CEO of Citigroup Inc., issued a statement saying the company was "concerned about the message the executive order sends." Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO Lloyd Blankfein issued a companywide voicemail expressing support for a diverse workplace and denouncing the measure.

"This is not a policy we support, and I would note that it has already been challenged in federal court, and some of the order has been enjoined at least temporarily," Blankfein said in the voicemail, according to a transcript provided by the company.

Various technology-focused companies expressed concern over the executive action, noting that immigrants constitute a significant portion of their workforce. Microsoft Corp. reported that 76 of its employees would be affected by the order. CEO Satya Nadella posted on LinkedIn about the importance of immigration to both the company's and the country's success. Alphabet Inc.'s Google Inc. estimated that more than 100 of its employees were affected by the order, according to a Bloomberg News report.

More than 15,000 members of the academic community, including several involved in biomedical research, signed a petition calling Trump's executive order discriminatory and detrimental to national interests and said it imposes undue burdens.