Margaret Gembala Nelson


Margaret Gembala Nelson


Partner Margaret Gembala Nelson is the national chair of Foley & Lardner LLP’s Securities Enforcement & Litigation Practice Group. 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.

Margaret has more than 20 years of experience as a regulatory and litigation lawyer focusing on complex securities, accounting, compliance, and commercial matters.

Prior to joining Foley, Margaret spent over five years as assistant general counsel for a large accounting firm 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.

Also before coming to Foley, Margaret 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. Margaret 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, Margaret served as a 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.

Awards and Recognition

Margaret has 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.


  • Member, Association of SEC Alumni (ASECA)
  • Western Golf Association/Evans Scholars Foundation
    • Director
    • Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee Member
    • Audit Committee Member
    • Former Evans Scholarship Recipient

Presentations and Publications

  • Co-author, “Expert networks, alternative data and managing risks of material non-public information,” Journal of Financial Compliance, Volume 7, Number 2 (December 2023)
  • Quoted, “Loose Practices and Imprecise Recordkeeping Prompt SEC Scrutiny, Even When Investors Are Unharmed,” Private Equity Law Report (November 16, 2023)
  • Co-chairing, “Basics of Accounting for Lawyers 2019,” Practicing Law Institute (May 2019)
  • Speaker, “Accountants’ Liability 2019: Strategies for the Profession in an Era of Heightened Enforcement,” American Law Institute Continuing Legal Education Course (October 2019)
  • Speaker, “Accountants’ Liability 2018: The Profession in an Uncertain World”, American Law Institute Continuing Education Course (October 2018)
07 February 2024 Deals and Wins

Foley Represents Baker Tilly in Connection With Its Strategic Investment Led by Hellman & Friedman

Foley & Lardner LLP represented Baker Tilly, a leading advisory CPA firm, in connection with its strategic investment from private equity firms Hellman & Friedman and Valeas Capital Partners.
22 December 2022 Newsletters

Dual-Hatted CEO and CCO Named Individually in SEC Settlement for Compliance Violations

On December 5, 2022, the SEC filed a settled action against investment advisory firm Two Point Capital Management Inc. and its chief executive officer, who also served as the Firm’s chief compliance officer until February 2021.
09 August 2022 Foley Funds Legal Focus

The SEC’s Latest CCO Case and the Ongoing Need for a Framework

On June 30, 2022, the SEC filed a settled action against Hamilton Investment Counsel, LLC and its chief compliance officer.
25 July 2022 Viewpoints

Ripple Battle Offers Defense Strategy Against SEC Privilege

In U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission v. Ripple Labs Inc., a discovery battle over claims of privilege by the staff of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement in combination with a recent U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruling, could make waves that will affect future litigation with the SEC.
23 May 2022 Foley Funds Legal Focus

The Fifth Circuit Strikes a Blow to the Constitutionality of SEC Administrative Proceedings

On Wednesday, in a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in Jarkesy v. SEC that proceedings before an SEC administrative law judge were unconstitutional.
03 December 2021 In the News

Margaret Nelson Comments on Increased Regulations for Private Funds

Foley Partner Margaret Nelson was quoted in a Private Funds CFO article, “What Gensler’s tough talk could mean for private funds,” about how both regulators and lawmakers are bringing attention to the need for stricter regulations for private funds.