Margaret Gembala Nelson is of counsel with Foley & Lardner LLP, where she represents accounting firms, financial service entities, corporations and their professionals in auditor liability matters, government enforcement investigations and examinations, and complex securities and business litigation. She also conducts internal investigations on behalf of clients and advises on regulatory compliance and risk management issues.

Ms. Nelson has more than 15 years of experience as a regulatory and litigation lawyer focusing on complex securities, accounting, compliance and commercial matters.

Prior to joining Foley, Ms. Nelson spent over five years as assistant general counsel for the accounting firm RSM US LLP, formerly McGladrey LLP, where she oversaw all of the firm’s regulatory matters and much of its litigation across all business lines. In this role, she regularly interacted with the SEC, PCAOB, Department of Justice, CFTC, FDIC, Department of Labor, FINRA and various state agencies in connection with regulatory inquiries, investigations and actions. Additionally, she routinely advised the firm on compliance, risk management and inspection issues, gaining significant insight into the legal issues confronting the accounting industry.

Before RSM, Ms. Nelson worked at the SEC’s Chicago Regional Office for nine years as senior counsel. While there, she spearheaded numerous high-profile investigations and litigation involving a wide array of securities issues, including financial fraud, offering fraud, registration violations, broker-dealer misconduct, advisory conflicts of interest and insider trading, and often coordinated parallel investigations with other federal and state agencies, including the Department of Justice, Department of Labor, FINRA and the New York State Attorney General’s Office. Ms. Nelson was also a member of the Asset Management Unit, a national specialized unit within the SEC’s Enforcement Division that focuses on issues relating to investment advisers, investment companies and private funds.

Following law school, Ms. Nelson served as judicial clerk to the Honorable Jerome Turner of the U.S. District Court, Western District of Tennessee. She also worked for a leading Chicago law firm focusing on complex commercial and securities litigation.


Ms. Nelson earned multiple awards during her time with the SEC, including the Chairman’s Award for Excellence and several Division of Enforcement Director’s Awards and Special Act Awards.


Ms. Nelson earned her law degree from the University of Illinois College of Law (J.D., magna cum laude, 1999), where she was elected to the Order of the Coif and was editor-in-chief of The Elder Law Journal. She received her bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (B.S., with high honors, 1992).

Admissions and Professional Memberships

Ms. Nelson is admitted to practice in Illinois. She is a member of the Association of SEC Alumni (ASECA).

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