Xavier Romeu Matta is a counselor and litigator, with expertise in securities litigation and regulation, and corporate, commercial and employment litigation. He is a former Puerto Rican-American politician, and an advocate of statehood for Puerto Rico, and of the appointment of Puerto Rican-Americans to the federal bench, most notably of current Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, whom he served as a law clerk.
Mr. Romeu was born and raised in Puerto Rico where his family resided since 1813. Following graduation from the Academia del Perpetuo Socorro in Miramar, he attended Haverford College in Pennsylvania, where he was Secretary, Vice President and President of the Student Council. As a freshman, Mr. Romeu joined the diversity protests of the early 1980s and delivered the students’ demands to then President Robert Stevens.
As a student leader, Mr. Romeu pushed and obtained the approval by the Board of Directors of funding of a new student center (currently, the John C. Whitehead student center). He also led in the fight for weight room/ sport facilities and for funding of Skeeters, the student-run pizza business. He was a strong supporter of self-governing by students and actively opposed the College administration on a proposed campus-wide alcohol ban. He successfully advocated for accountability and individual responsibility for social events on campus. Mr. Romeu was graduated with Honors in Philosophy.
After receiving a law degree from Columbia University, he worked as a litigator for the New York law firms of Sullivan & Cromwell and Proskauer Rose. He also holds an MBA from Duke University. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Puerto Rican Bar Association ("PRBA") and chaired the Federal Affairs Committee of the PRBA and Hispanic National Bar Association.
He lives and works in New York and is married, has a daughter, and continues to strongly advocate on Puerto Rican matters, and for equality for the U.S citizens of the Territory of Puerto Rico.
In May 2010 he was invited to testify before the White House Taskforce on Puerto Rico on the subject of economic development strategies for the island and the inextricable relationship between economic development and status. Mr. Romeu explained that the island’s colonial status has served as fertile ground for federal tax subsidies to the pharmaceutical and manufacturing industry for revenues realized, and patents held, in the U.S. Territory, but that the exceptions no longer increase job creation. Mr. Romeu advocated extension of a wage and job based tax credit, instead of revenue based corporate tax subsidy, and extension of empowerment zone status to all of Puerto Rico.
Xavier Romeu chaired the HNBA Governmental Affairs Committee. In that capacity, in 1998, he:
- Led the national coalition that broke the Republican Senate’s hold on Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
- Managed the passage of the Puerto Rico Self Determination Bill through the House of Representatives on March 4, 1998, the first time that a definition-based federal bill passed the House of Representatives;
- Managed the passage of a sense of the U.S. Senate resolution endorsing self-determination for Puerto Rico; and
- Secured the extension and increase of the rum tax rebate to the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico;
- Obtained extension of the research and development tax credit to Puerto Rico.
Mr. Romeu became Secretary of Commerce and Economic Development while also holding the position of Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company ("PRIDCO"). He led PRIDCO to a 30-year high banner in the following key metrics for the Company:
- Job Commitments: 29,275
- Capital Investment: $835.3 million
- New Businesses: 254 (highest since 1977)
- New Payroll: $504.2 million
- Lowest Real Estate Vacancy Rate (in 7 years)
- Lowest Number of Business Closures since 1971.
Mr. Romeu also led passage through the U.S. Senate of the IRC Section 30A wage-based tax benefit for Puerto Rico. Under his stewardship, major initiatives included:
- The Puerto Rico Trans-Shipment Port
- The Puerto Silicon Barrio (Technology Incubator)
- Creation of the partnership infrastructure for the following Science and Technology Clusters:
- -Electronics and IT
- New Strategy and Incentives for the Textile and Apparel Industries.
Mr. Romeu is currently a practicing attorney in New York City.
Mr. Romeu, as well as other pro-statehood advocates, was the subject of politically motivated audits and investigations related to his government work. False and baseless allegations regarding the use of credit cards for personal expenses and the management of the Puerto Rico Industrial Incentives Fund ('Fund') were dismissed as lacking any merit by the Ethics Commission of Puerto Rico.
In dismissing the allegations with prejudice, the Ethics Commission concluded that Mr. Romeu acted fully in accordance with the norms applicable to the use of credit cards by Company officials. The Ethics Commission similarly dismissed with prejudice as completely unfounded all allegations related to the management of the Fund. Specifically, the Ethics Commission found without merit all referrals from the so-called Comisión Independiente de Ciudadanos para Evaluar Transacciones Gubernamentales (also known as the Blue Ribbon Committee or BRC), an anti-statehood star-chamber established via executive order by former Governor Sila Calderon of the anti-statehood Popular Democratic Party ("PDP"), and exclusively composed of private supporters, and former (and future) members of the PDP.
The Puerto Rico Legislature formally found the BRC to be a partisan entity created with the sole purpose of persecuting members of the New Progressive Party. The Puerto Rico Comptroller/Auditor and the Puerto Rico Ethics Commission also publicly criticized the BRC. The Puerto Rico Legislature concluded that, in creating the "Commission," the Government of Sila Calderón:
"privatized political persecution and political profiling using secret deliberations ... which represented the official reincarnation and institutionalization of ideological and political persecution in Puerto Rico. This phantasm represented the broadest and basest political and ideological persecution campaign witnessed in Puerto Rico since the dark times of the Gag Order..."
Romeu subsequently sued PRIDCO for violation of his civil rights and has continued to press for redress of his civil rights. The Puerto Rico Justice Department filed a case against Mr. Romeu claiming negligence. The case has since been fully dismissed as baseless.
Honors and recognitions
- The Puerto Rico Institute Lifetime Achievement Award
- National Hispanic Corporate Achievers, Western Hemisphere Achiever of the Year
- Frank Torres Commitment to Diversity Award, Association of Judges of Hispanic Heritage
- Honorable Felipe N. Torres Award for Outstanding Latino Attorney of the Year
- "Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court - Sonia Sotomayor". United States Senate. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
- Steve Manning. "Xavier Romeu '86 Lobbying for Puerto Rico's Future". Haverford College. Archived from the original on June 4, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
- JUAN GONZALEZ (2000-10-10). "PUERTO RICO DEMANDS PREZ BALLOT". New York: NY Daily News. Archived from the original on October 21, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
- Xavier Romeu. "Statement before White House Taskforce on Puerto Rico" (PDF). Puerto Rico Bar Association. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
- Don Singleton (1998-10-03). "Fed Judge from Bronx Promoted by Senate". New York: NY Daily News. Retrieved 2010-08-18.
- PRIDCO (2000-12-01). "Logros Promocionales PRIDCO". PRIDCO. Retrieved 2010-08-27.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 28, 2011. Retrieved July 11, 2013. - David Noriega, former candidate for Governor of Puerto Rico for the anti-statehood pro-independence party.
- http://www.estado51prusa.com/?p=12043 – Angel Hermida, former assistant and political appointee to the bench by former anti-statehood governor of Puerto Rico, Hernández Colón.
- "Comentarios del Contralor sobre el Blue Ribbon Committee". Oficina del Contralor. 2002-01-08. Retrieved 2010-08-16.
- "Puerto Rico Senate Resolution 165". Puerto Rico Office of Legislative Affairs.
- "Puerto Rico Senate Resolution 2463". Puerto Rico Office of Legislative Affairs.
- "Romeu Sues PRIDCO". Puerto Rico Herald. 2004-09-30. Retrieved 2010-08-16.