Jose W. Fernandez is in charge of the State Department’s Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs (EEB). EEB implements policies involving international trade, investment and finance, economic development and sanctions, debt policy, terrorist financing, energy security, telecommunications and transportation. It is primarily tasked with promoting opportunities for American businesses. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the bureau has increasingly supported the government’s anti-terror efforts while carrying out its economic mission. This includes promoting US sanctions against Iran, which continued to do business with numerous American corporations through a loophole in federal law.
Nominated by President Obama on August 6, 2009, Fernandez was sworn in as Assistant Secretary on December 1, 2009.
Fernandez was born in 1955 in Cuba, where his father was a lawyer in a small town near the Bay of Pigs. Eight years after the 1959 Cuban Revolution, his family left Cuba for Hudson County, N.J., where his mother worked as a seamstress in a local factory. He earned a B.A. in history at Dartmouth College in 1977, and a J.D. at Columbia Law School in 1980.
After graduation, he moved to Spain, where he worked for a law firm and says that he tried to break into the Spanish professional basketball league.
Returning from Spain, Fernandez began his U.S. law career in 1985 in the New York office of Baker & McKenzie, where he gained expertise in privatizations, infrastructure projects, cross-border mergers and acquisitions, and capital markets transactions, particularly as they related to Latin America. After eleven years at Baker & McKenzie, he moved on to the New York office of O’Melveny & Myers. There, he headed the international practice group, working on Latin American issues, such as the privatization of the Ecuadorian telecommunications business.
In 2006, Fernandez joined the Latham & Watkins law firm as global co-chair of their Latin America practice.
A Democrat, in 2008 Fernandez donated $5,000 to Democratic candidates and causes, including $2,000 to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and $1,500 to Kirsten Gillibrand’s senate campaign. In the same year, Gabor donated $750 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Fernandez is married to journalist and author Andrea Gabor. They have two daughters, Sarah and Anna.