Charlita Cardwell, Member, CUNY SPS Foundation

Vice President & Senior Counsel American Express Travel Related Services, Inc.


Charlita C. Cardwell is the ultimate corporate consigliera who builds, facilitates, transforms, and translates complexity into prose. She is a seasoned executive, master negotiator, inspirational leader, and insightful mentor.

In her role as vice president and senior counsel of American Express, Charlita is responsible for providing strategic thought leadership to American Express OPEN, the high-growth, high-performing division of American Express dedicated to helping small businesses do more business. She advises broadly on a variety of issues affecting the business. During her tenure at American Express, Charlita has lead cross-functional legal and business teams, negotiated complex digital and traditional strategic partnerships and alliances, guided clients in navigating a dynamic legal and regulatory environment while also exceeding business goals, and been a key player in launching innovative new products and initiatives, such as Small Business Saturday, as well as broadening OPEN’s business strategy to address its clients’ increasingly complex needs. Additionally, Charlita has prepared executives to testify before regulatory and legislative bodies about small business credit and the needs of small businesses amid a rapidly changing regulatory and political environment.

Before joining American Express, Charlita was assistant general counsel, corporate transactions, responsible for mergers and acquisitions, real estate, and procurement for Compass Group USA, Inc., a highly-acquisitive holding company.  Charlita began her career in private practice with the law firms Dewey & LeBoeuf and Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw, Pittman, LLP.

Charlita enthusiastically supports the Council of Urban Professionals (CUP), Her Justice (formerly InMotion), Sponsors for Educational Opportunities (SEO), A Better Chance (ABC), Petals-N-Belles, JustLeadership USA, Corporate Council Women of Color (CCWC) and Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA).

Charlita earned her bachelor’s degree with honors in economics from Wake Forest University and her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.