Legal Business Blogs

Kirkland’s trophy hire – Robert Khuzami to join the firm in Washington

If securing senior US regulatory agency lawyers can be compared to a highly competitive game of cards, then Kirkland & Ellis has just called poker with the hire of Wall Street’s top federal enforcer Robert Khuzami.

Khuzami (pictured, who, incidentally, has a Wikipedia listing running into several pages) joins as a partner in the top 10 Global 100 firm’s global government, regulatory and internal investigations practice group after leading the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) enforcement division for four years.

Reported today by the New York Times to be joining on a package of over $5m a year (also said to be guaranteed for two years), he will be based in both the firm’s Washington and New York offices.

Senior SEC official Kenneth Lench is also set to join Khuzami within the same practice group in Washington at the end of July. Lench has headed the structured and new products unit within the SEC enforcement division since January 2010.

The recent additions will strengthen the firms white collar and securities defence practice in line with the growing client demand of regulatory and enforcement issues.

Kirkland’s global management executive committee chairman Jeffrey Hammes said: ‘Rob is one of the most respected and experienced attorneys within global enforcement and brings invaluable public and private sector experience to our growing government, regulatory and investigations practice.

‘Rob and Ken joining our existing team of talented lawyers furthers our ability to provide our clients with the highest level of resources, advice and counsel globally.’

As a prosecutor, Khuzami tried 12 federal criminal trials to verdict, including the successful prosecution of Omar Ahmed Ali Abdel Rahman and nine co-defendants in connection with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Before the SEC, he worked at Deutsche Bank in New York as global head of litigation and regulatory investigations in 2002, before becoming general counsel for the Americas from 2004 until 2009. He has also served as a federal prosecutor within the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, including three years as chief of its Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force (between 1991 and 2002.)

The hire is a coup for Kirkland, which is understood to have had stiff competition to hire Khuzami since his departure from the SEC in January.

Lench, meanwhile, joins Kirkland after 23 years at the SEC. His role as structured and new products chief was created by Khuzami in 2010 to focus on abuses in markets for complex securities, including asset-backed securities and derivatives.

Kirkland litigation partner Gene Assaf added: ‘Washington, D.C. regulatory and enforcement issues have become critical to global clients, and the addition of this senior team continues the expansion of our enforcement and regulatory capabilities and presence here.’