Cecelia  L.  Fanelli whiteplains

Cecelia L. Fanelli



Cecelia Fanelli has decades of experience in litigation and dispute resolution, practicing across the country in federal and state trial and appellate courts. She is also regularly chosen to serve as an arbitrator in high stakes arbitrations, particularly in the hotel, lending, and real estate industries.

Her practice involves a variety of complex commercial litigation matters, with an emphasis on matters relating to the hotel, resort, convention center, and transportation industries. Since 2011, she has been ranked by Chambers USA in the Leisure & Hospitality, Nationwide category. In the publication, her clients and peers singled her out as “one of the best in the business,” and observed that “when she speaks, she knows what she is talking about, and it tends to be very persuasive, not just to the court, but to her opposition.”

Cecelia’s clients run the gamut from owners of hotels to lenders, franchisees, franchisors, asset managers, and management companies. The owners include pension funds, high net worth individuals, private equity firms, foreign governments, airlines, construction firms, real estate developers, and insurance carriers. She has successfully represented clients and obtained a number of multimillion-dollar recoveries in hotel industry litigations and complex real estate litigations and workouts. Cecelia has defended lender clients against multi-million dollar lender liability and antitrust claims and has tried a variety of trademark infringement injunction and damage claims on behalf of franchisors.

She was counsel for the prevailing lender in the landmark case of Government Guarantee Fund of Republic of Finland v. Hyatt, which confirmed the fiduciary status of hotel managers and the right of owners to terminate managing agencies. In 2017, Cecelia successfully defended Interstate Hotels & Resorts against antitrust claims brought by hotel owners who asserted that Interstate had conspired to monopolize the labor and hotel services markets throughout New York City in violation of the Sherman Act. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed all antitrust claims against Interstate. Also, in a related case brought by an affiliate of the antitrust plaintiffs, the Court dismissed all contract and fiduciary duty claims against Interstate, ruling that Interstate was not a fiduciary of the hotel owner.

Cecelia has a robust transactional practice and is recognized as a leading lawyer for the negotiation and drafting of management and license agreements. She routinely represents clients in major transactions with respect to traditional hotel assets as well as assets that are part of convention center developments. Cecelia counsels clients with respect to the amendment of management contracts and the restructuring of distressed assets. She is also counsel of choice for disputes relating to mixed-use hotel projects.

In addition, a significant aspect of Cecelia’s practice includes advising clients with respect to operational issues involving complex accounting and finance issues, construction and capital improvement programs, labor and employment matters, and data security.

Cecelia is a Dean’s Distinguished Lecturer at the Cornell Hotel School, and apart from her trial and transactional skills, she is recognized as a thought leader in the hospitality industry. She writes, speaks, and teaches extensively, in particular with regard to topics where she has been involved in making the applicable law.

Professional Affiliations

  • Association of the Bar of the City of New York
    • Council on Judicial Administration
    • Joint E-Discovery Subcommittee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York
    • The State Courts of Superior Jurisdiction Committee (2004-2007)
  • American Bar Association
    • Hospitality, Timesharing and Common Interests Development Group, Co-Chair
    • Section of Litigation and Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section
      • Litigation Section of Resorts and Tourism Committee, Former Co-Chair
  • Dean’s Special Leadership Committee, Cornell University Law School

Awards and Recognition:

  • Selected for inclusion as notable practitioner in Chambers USA in Leisure & Hospitality category (2011-2019)

News and Insights

Speaking Engagements

  • “Hotels as the Purchase of Real Estate: The Fallacy,” presented at the the Annual American Bar Association Real Property Conference, May 2019.
  • “Letters of Intent,” instructor, Hotel Law Program at the Washington College of Law at American University, 2018.
  • “Purchase and Sale of Hotel Assets,” instructor, Hotel Law Program at the Washington College of Law at American University, 2018.