Maria D. Melendez
MARIA MELENDEZ focuses her practice primarily on complex commercial litigation representing U.S. and non-U.S. clients in state and federal courts throughout the U.S. and in domestic and international arbitration matters. She litigates cases and handles arbitration proceedings involving allegations of fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and other business torts. Her litigation experience includes defending public companies, investment banks, broker-dealers, directors and officers, and corporate issuers in actions arising under the federal securities laws and pharmaceutical companies in products liability cases. Her practice also includes representing entities and individuals in investigations conducted by regulators, including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
- Appointed Acting Chair of Panel III of the Departmental Disciplinary Committee, New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division First Judicial Department, 2015
- Her Justice’s Commitment to Justice Award, 2014
- Council of Urban Professionals (CUP) CUP Catalyst: Change Agent-LAW, 2013
- The Women’s City Club of New York Civic Spirit Award, honoring Gotham’s Emerging Power Brokers, 2013
- Albany Law School Kate Stoneman Award, in recognition of outstanding contributions to ensuring equity and fairness in the legal profession for women, 2011
- Appointed Member of the Departmental Disciplinary Committee, New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division First Judicial Department, 2011 to present
- Served on New York State Bar Association, Task Force on New York Law in International Matters, 2011
- Puerto Rican Bar Association, Distinguished Achievement Award, 2003
Representative matters have included:
- Lead counsel for pharmaceutical distributor in a multi-million dollar breach of contract dispute pending in Kentucky state court.
- Lead counsel for Russian financial institutions and a U.S.-based broker-dealer in related California federal and state court actions alleging RICO, fraud and other tort claims. Successfully moved to dismiss Russian parent entity from the federal court action for lack of jurisdiction and to dismiss an affiliated entity in the state court action for plaintiff’s failure to comply with the Hague Service Convention.
- Counsel for investment adviser based in the United Kingdom and affiliated individuals in connection with SEC investigation involving allocation of investment opportunities across multiple funds.
- Acting with coordinating counsel for overall litigation strategy for multiple criminal, civil and bankruptcy proceedings pending in Argentina and Uruguay against subsidiaries and former senior officers of a global financial institution arising from alleged fraud perpetrated at a major bank in Uruguay and in Argentina.
- Lead counsel for global pharmaceutical company in Massachusetts federal court action involving breach of warranty and negligence claims arising from alleged loss of vision suffered from medication manufactured and/or distributed by the pharmaceutical company. Successfully removed case from state to federal court and later settled the matter on very favorable terms.
- Counsel for global pharmaceutical company in Illinois state court action involving failure-to-warn and negligent undertaking claims arising from alleged loss of vision suffered from medication manufactured and/or distributed by the pharmaceutical company. Matter settled on very favorable terms on the eve of trial.
- Counsel for global pharmaceutical company in Louisiana federal court action involving failure-to-warn, breach of warranty and negligence claims arising from alleged loss of vision suffered from medication manufactured and/or distributed by the pharmaceutical company. Matter settled on very favorable terms following the filing of a defense motion for summary judgment.
- Lead counsel for Argentina-based company engaged in the production, sale, and export of aluminum in a breach of contract dispute involving a large trader of aluminum based in Ohio. Successfully moved to compel arbitration in federal court and successfully defended client against contract claims in an international arbitration proceeding sponsored by JAMS.
- Counsel for U.S. demolition and environmental remediation company in a breach of representations, warranties and covenants dispute involving a national demolition and construction company in an arbitration proceeding sponsored by the AAA.
- Counsel for registered investment adviser and affiliated individuals in connection with SEC investigation involving alleged conflicts of interest in valuation of illiquid securities.
- Counsel for hedge fund in joint SEC and German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) investigation concerning alleged violations of short sale ban.
- Counsel for global financial institution in coordinated class actions in New York federal court alleging violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Securities Act of 1933 in connection with initial public offerings.
- Counsel for clinical research organization and senior officer in New York federal court action commenced by a global advertising and marketing company alleging violation of the federal securities laws.
Maria is a member of Sidley’s Diversity Committee, and served as New York Chair from 2002 to March 2016. She is also a member of Sidley’s Recruiting Committee, the American Bar Association, the Puerto Rican Bar Association, the Hispanic National Bar Association, the Hispanic Lawyers Society of New York, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York Diversity Pipeline Initiatives Committee.
Maria maintains an active pro bono practice. Currently, she is lead counsel in post-conviction proceedings challenging a capital murder conviction in Macon County, Alabama.
Maria is a member and Chair of the Board of Directors of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and serves on the Board’s Executive Committee. LatinoJustice PRLDEF, established in 1972, has won landmark civil rights cases in education, housing, voting, migrant, immigrant, employment and other civil rights.
From 2003 to July 2007, Maria served on the Board of Directors of Her Justice, Inc. (formerly inMotion, Inc.), a public-service organization that provides free legal services to low-income women in New York City seeking protection from batterers, custody of their children, child support and a safe place to live. Today, she continues to serve as Sidley’s representative to Her Justice, and handles cases on behalf of Her Justice clients.
Speaking engagements include:
- Panelist, “Forging Pathways: The Advancement of Diverse Women in Law,” Sidley Austin LLP (New York, March 20, 2017).
- Panelist, “Diversity and Inclusion Roundtable,” American Bar Association Annual Corporate Counsel Conference (Orlando, February 17, 2017).
- Panelist, “Fundamentals for Taking and Defending Depositions,” 12th Annual Corporate Counsel Women of Color Conference (Las Vegas, September 21, 2016).
- Keynote Speaker, “2016 Latina Leadership Academy Luncheon,” HNBA Annual Conference (Chicago, September 7, 2016).
- Panelist, “Flashes of Brilliance,” 8th Annual Women’s Leadership Forum, Council of Urban Professionals (New York, July 26, 2016).
- Panelist, “Fireside Chat: Intersectionality,” The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Diversity and Inclusion Conference (New York, May 26, 2016).
- Panelist, “Latinas in Leadership: A Showcase of Careers Across Industries,” 2016 Inaugural Harvard Latino Law Conference, Harvard Law School (February 19, 2016).
- Panelist, “Latinos in the Law,” Cornell Law School (Ithaca, New York, October 7, 2015).
- Panelist, “Subverting the Norm: A Discussion on the Extraordinary Attrition Rates facing Women of Color at Law Firms,” Empowering Women of Color Conference — Playing the Game? Reflections on the Lives of Women of Color, Columbia Law School (New York, April 3, 2015).
- Panelist, “Rompiendo the ‘Multilayered’ Glass Ceiling,” Hispanic National Bar Association Annual Corporate Counsel Conference (San Antonio, March 20, 2015).
- Speaker, “SEC Enforcement Actions: Are You Prepared for the Inevitable?,” Webinar with Sidley’s Barry Rashkover, Willis of NY, Inc., Cordium, and AIG (New York, October 7, 2014).
- Panelist, “Making the Most Out of Your Day in Court: The Keys to Being an Effective Trial Lawyer,” Hispanic National Bar Association Annual Conference (Washington, D.C., September 12, 2014).
- Panelist, “Litigation, Arbitration, Mediation: Is One Option Better Than The Others?” Hispanic National Bar Association Corporate Counsel Conference (Orlando, March 20, 2014).
- Panelist, “Do You Know Who Has Your Trade Secrets & Data? Do’s & Don’ts of Managing An Effective Response Team For Data Breaches,” Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey (Newark, November 6, 2013).
- Panelist, “Diversity and Dollars: Diversity as a Good Business Strategy for 2012,” New York State Bar Association (New York, January 23, 2012).
- Panelist, “Perfecting the Pitch: The Art & Science of Becoming a Rainmaker,” Hispanic National Bar Association Mid-Year Conference (Jersey City, March 28, 2012).