Michael H. Posner is the Jerome Kohlberg Professor of Ethics and Finance and a Professor of Business and Society at NYU’s Stern School of Business, where he is working to launch the first-ever center on business and human rights at a business school. Prior to joining NYU Stern, Posner served from 2009 to 2013 in the Obama Administration as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department. From 1978 to 2009, he led Human Rights First, a New York-based human rights advocacy organization.
Posner is recognized as a leader and expert in advancing a rights-based approach to national security, challenging the practice of torture, combating discrimination, and refugee protection. He is a frequent public commentator on these issues, and has testified dozens of times before the U.S. Congress. As Assistant Secretary, Posner traveled extensively, representing the U.S. Government to foreign officials and representatives of civil society in countries of strategic importance to the United States, including China, Russia, Egypt, Burma, Bahrain, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, among many others.
Throughout his career, Posner has been a prominent voice in support of human rights protections in global business operations in the manufacturing supply chain, the extractives industry, and the information and communications technology sector. As a member of the White House Apparel Industry Partnership Task Force in the mid-’90s, he helped found the Fair Labor Association (FLA), an organization that brings together corporations, local leaders, universities, and NGOs to promote corporate accountability for working conditions in the apparel industry. He was a founding member of the Global Network Initiative, a multi-stakeholder initiative aimed at promoting free expression and privacy rights on the Internet, and has spoken widely on the issue of Internet freedom. Posner spearheaded the U.S. Government’s efforts to enhance the effectiveness of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, which works to improve human rights around oil, gas, and mining operations.
Posner played a key role in proposing and campaigning for the first U.S. law providing for political asylum, which became part of the Refugee Act of 1980, as well as the Torture Victim Protection Act, which was adopted in 1992. In 1998, he led the Human Rights First delegation to the Rome conference at which the statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was adopted.
Before joining Human Rights First, Posner was a lawyer with Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal in Chicago. He lectured at Yale Law School from 1981 to 1984, and again in 2009, when he taught with former Dean Harold Koh. He was a visiting lecturer at Columbia University Law School from 1984 to 2008. A member of the California Bar and the Illinois Bar, he received his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley Law School (Boalt Hall) in 1975, and a B.A. with distinction and honors in History from the University of Michigan in 1972. Posner resides with his family in New York City.