4 Top Holding Company Leaders Speak Out Against Trump’s Immigration Order

CEOs from WPP, Omnicom, IPG and Dentsu shared their thoughts

Leaders in the industry are speaking out against Trump.
Sources: Getty Images, WPP, Omnicom, IPG

Today the chief executive officers for four of the world’s six largest holding companies issued statements regarding President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting the movement of immigrants and refugees entering the United States.

WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell, Omnicom’s John Wren, Dentsu Aegis’ Jerry Buhlmann and IPG’s Michael Roth all spoke out against the directive that placed a hold on non-citizen travelers arriving in the States from seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days and indefinitely forbid the entry of all Syrian refugees—even those who have completed an intensive screening process that can take up to two years. The tones of their quotes went from measured to more directly oppositional.

"... our top priority is to protect and support employees, their families and all those otherwise affected."
Omnicom CEO John Wren

“No immediate impact we are aware of in the first few days of the ban,” said Sorrell in a statement prepared for the press, “but we are concerned about the impact it may have on our people and their families both inside and outside the USA and on innocent people generally.” He then added, in a personal aside: “As the grandson of Eastern European grandparents, who were admitted to the U.K. in the very late 19th and early 20th centuries, I have an instinctive dislike of such measures.”

“Our people are our greatest asset and right now, our top priority is to protect and support employees, their families and all those otherwise affected,” Wren said in a similarly brief media quote.

“We remain committed to a fully diversified workforce where all our people are empowered to deliver for our clients,” said Dentsu Aegis network CEO Jerry Buhlmann in a statement provided after this story initially went live. “This is at the heart of how we work globally and we will continue to support our people to operate in a collaborative and equal way.”

Roth went further than his colleagues in a full internal memo addressing the IPG community at large. “For any multinational business, the free flow of talent across business units is key to success,” he wrote. “For a service business like ours, and a company that has been a pioneer in bringing open architecture solutions to our clients, it is even more important that we be able to build teams seamlessly and call upon colleagues, no matter where they sit in the organization, where they are based geographically and, most important, regardless of their nationality, religious beliefs or place of origin.”

"... we are concerned about the impact it may have on our people and their families both inside and outside the USA ..."
WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell

“While it’s too early to tell what impact the travel ban announced recently may have on our company, we wanted to remind all employees that IPG is committed to protecting you, and that we will provide whatever assistance is necessary to keep you and your families safe and a valued part of our organization, no matter your citizenship or religion beliefs,” he wrote, encouraging all staff with questions to reach out to IPG’s human resources and legal departments as well as its travel notification center.

Roth also tied his comments back to specific diversity initiatives taken by his company, writing, “In light of events that unfolded over the weekend, we felt that it was important to reaffirm that we will continue to embrace these values and do all that we can to show our compassion and support for all people.”

So far, these four are the only executives to comment directly on the order. Representatives for Publicis Groupe and Havas have either not yet provided comment or not responded to related requests.

As Roth noted in his memo, much about the Trump order remains unclear—including its legal status, the specifics of its enforcement and its potential effects on American ad agencies. Thousands of international employees at major U.S.-based agencies currently hold either green cards or work visas. While they are legal residents of the United States, they could potentially encounter problems on future trips abroad if they hail from one of the seven “banned” countries.

Yesterday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus appeared to offer contradictory statements regarding green card holders from those countries, telling NBC’s Meet the Press that such legal residents will be “subjected to further screening” after initially claiming that the order would not apply to them. Green card holders were among those detained at airports over the weekend by border security officials.

The leaders of major tech brands like Google, Airbnb, Lyft, Twitter and Facebook have already weighed in, with most releasing statements that criticized the Trump order and urged caution among employees and customers alike.