SEC's Lench joins Kirkland & Ellis

"I’ve stayed as long as I have because something fun and interesting always seemed to be coming along or right around the corner,” he said in a telephone interview. “There was always some different case I wanted to see cross the finish line, or a different office or position.”

On Tuesday, his new firm, Kirkland & Ellis, said he is set to become a partner its global government, regulatory and internal investigations practice in the Washington office. Robert Khuzami, his former boss at the SEC, will be joining him.

Kirkland & Ellis, a firm dealing with corporate, tax and intellectual property law, has not had an active federal lobbying presence since the middle of last year, records show.

While under the regulator’s roof, Lench has worked in several positions within the enforcement division, each with a different set of duties, served as the head of the division of corporation finance and most recently spearheaded the division of enforcement’s structured and new products unit.

Khuzami created the unit in 2010 to respond to the financial crash and hand-picked Lench to serve as its chief. He launched investigations into violations in securities laws during the financial crisis, filing cases against Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse, Wells Fargo/Wachovia that eventually reaped $1.7 billion in fines.

In his first six months on the job, he and his team successfully charged and fined Goldman Sachs to the tune of $550 million.

“Ken’s determination to always seek the right answers and his devotion to protecting investors by working tirelessly with his staff and colleagues made everyone around him better,” George Canellos, the co-director of the SEC’s division of enforcement, said in a statement.

Contributing to his decision to leave, Lench said, are the successes of the SEC’s newly created investigative component.

“The unit has been up and running now for over three years and I’m very proud of contributing to building it up from the ground,” he said. “It feels very self-sustaining.”