Chelsea Ashbrook McCarthy is a litigation attorney in Holland & Knight's Chicago office.

Ms. McCarthy focuses her practice on Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) litigation, including litigation implicating employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), and financial services litigation, ranging from the prosecution of multimillion-dollar commercial foreclosures to the defense of consumer claims. She also represents clients prosecuting and defending restrictive covenant and trade secret claims, as well as shareholder and fiduciary issues. Her experience also includes litigation involving real estate fraud and title disputes, insurance coverage and class actions.

Ms. McCarthy represents clients at the trial and appellate levels, and has tried cases to verdict in state and federal court. She is a member of the trial bar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Ms. McCarthy is an active community volunteer and serves as a member of the board of directors of the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago. She also coordinates Holland & Knight's participation in providing pro bono legal services to victims of domestic violence at the Cook County Domestic Violence Courthouse.

Prior to joining Holland & Knight, Ms. McCarthy clerked for the Honorable Richard L. Young in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.


  • Defense of a company, directors and trustee in an Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) putative class action against claims for breach of fiduciary duty and engaging in prohibited transactions arising out of a $200 million employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) transaction
  • Defense of an ERISA action brought by ESOP on behalf of plan participants against fiduciaries, directors and plan advisors for claimed loss of more than $50 million to the plan
  • Defense of companies and plan service providers in investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) involving ESOP transactions 
  • Defense of a company in challenge to an ESOP transaction by a minority shareholder
  • Defense of a company against multiple claims for benefits by former executives under supplemental compensation plan

  • Representation of lenders in disputes regarding breach of loan documents and preparation of workout strategies
  • Prosecution of foreclosures of office buildings and residential developments on behalf of commercial lenders
  • Defense of commercial lenders in breach of guaranty actions and claims of breach of fiduciary duty, violation of good faith and fair dealing, and fraud
  • Defense of a subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company in a putative class action involving claims of consumer fraud and violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
  • Defense of a Fortune 500 company in claims asserting violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and state consumer fraud statute

  • Representation of building products distributor in multistate litigation against former company executives, employees and new employer for claims of breach of noncompetition and nondisclosure agreements and theft of trade secrets
  • Defense of logistics company and employees against request for temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction by competitor for claimed violations of noncompetition agreements and theft of confidential information
  • Prosecution of request for TRO on behalf of financial services company against a former employee for violation of noncompetition agreement

  • Prosecution of breach of fiduciary duty and oppression claims on behalf of a noncontrolling shareholder of a multimillion-dollar, closely held company 
  • Representation of a Fortune 500 company and subsidiary in a minority shareholder dispute relating to a spinoff of the subsidiary
  • Defense of minority shareholders in buyout dispute with a former employer

  • Defense of a property preservation company in putative class action against claims for trespass and violation of Chicago's Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance (RLTO)
  • Defense of a real estate data analytics company in claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) over collection and use of county property records
  • Defense of a commercial property owner against claims of fraud relating to sale of multifamily property
  • Defense of a lender and developer against claims of fraud and breach of warranty relating to sale of property
  • Prosecution of commercial evictions against defaulting tenants


  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, B.S., Finance, with high honors
  • St. Louis University School of Law, J.D.
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • Illinois
Court Admissions
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • U.S. Tax Court
  • Chicago Bar Association
  • ESOP Association, Legal and Regulatory Committee Member
Honors & Awards
  • Excellence in Pro Bono Service, Federal Bar Association, Chicago Chapter, 2018
  • Emerging Lawyer, Leading Lawyers, 2015-2017
  • Domestic Violence Legal Clinic Honoree, 2015
  • Holland & Knight National Brightest Star Award, 2014
  • Holland & Knight Pro Bono All-Star, 2010-2013, 2016