Jeffrey Epstein was many things: a sexual predator, a friend of the rich and powerful and for many years a lucrative client of the country’s biggest bank.
Now the bank, JPMorgan Chase, is facing a reckoning for its nearly 15-year relationship with the disgraced financier, a relationship that could cost it a big payout in two civil lawsuits that claim the bank ignored warnings that he was trafficking teenage girls for sex because it profited on the relationship with him.
New revelations arising from the cases suggest that employees at the bank flagged Epstein’s activity as suspicious on a number of occasions, while other documents show Epstein’s familiarity with top executives at the bank, and his easy access to them, even after his 2008 guilty plea in Florida to to solicit prostitution from a teenage girl.
The lawsuits filed late last year in federal court in Manhattan — one filed by lawyers representing Epstein’s victims and the other by the U.S. Virgin Islands government — are proceeding apace, with dozens of depositions taken by the victims, Virgin Islands officials and people who worked for the bank and Mr. Epstein.
The matter will have a new push on Friday, when Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, is scheduled to depose at the bank’s Manhattan headquarters.
Mr. Epstein died in an apparent suicide three years ago while in federal custody on sex-trafficking charges. JPMorgan dropped him as a client a decade ago. Many of the documents and exhibits filed in the trial are under seal.
A document prepared by the bank, an exhibit in a court case last week, suggests that JPMorgan employees filed a series of suspicious activity reports, or SARs, about some of Epstein’s transactions. The names of about four dozen employees the bank said were “involved in reporting SARs related to Epstein accounts between 2000 and 2019” have been redacted.
Banks must file a SAR with federal regulators when they suspect a transaction may involve money laundering or fraud. The reports are kept confidential because the transactions may turn out to be legitimate, although they may provide investigative leads to the authorities.
A spokeswoman for JPMorgan said the bank had no knowledge of any indication that Epstein was involved in sex trafficking. In filings related to the case, the bank also disclosed that it asked federal prosecutors in Florida in 2011 whether there was any active investigation into Epstein. The bank said prosecutors had not disclosed any investigation.
A separate cache of emails and partial calendar entries reviewed by The New York Times shows that senior executives at the bank had some level of familiarity with Epstein.
“Still awaiting your call,” Epstein wrote in October 2011 to Mary C. Erdoes, the current head of the bank’s large capital and wealth management division.
Erdoes replied: “Seriously. The time is 01:00 your time. I’d say get a life … but you’re at the Ritz and we’re not.” Erdoes added that she had just landed in California and would speak to Epstein the next day.
The emails and calendar entries for Epstein while living at his Manhattan mansion were obtained through a public records request of the US Virgin Islands attorney general. A JPMorgan spokeswoman has said that contact between wealthy clients and bank executives is not unusual.
The emails provided to The Times by the Virgin Islands also include exchanges between Mr. Epstein and James E. Staley, the JPMorgan executive with the closest ties to him.
A few are personal in nature: In a 2015 conversation, Mr. Staley asked Epstein if he would meet with his daughter to discuss her plans after college. In an email exchange in 2011, there was a discussion about arranging a dinner with Mr. Epstein and Mr. Staley’s family.
Other emails between Mr. Epstein, Mrs. Erdoes and Mr. Staley involved potential business deals. A series of exchanges focused on Epstein’s efforts to establish a charitable partnership between the bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others. He also asked for a meeting with Mr. Dimon to discuss the plan.
The bank’s spokeswoman said Mr Epstein had never met Mr Dimon. Mr. Epstein’s proposed charitable trust with the Gates Foundation and JPMorgan never got far beyond the conversation stage in 2011 when Mr. Gates first met Epstein.
JPMorgan cut ties with Epstein in 2013, although that was years after some members of the bank’s compliance department raised the alarm about doing business with him. And it only dawned on him after Mr. Staley had left for another job.
Mr. Staley and Mrs. Erdoes, The Times previously reported, favored keeping Epstein as a client after his guilty plea in 2008, in part because he helped bring wealthy clients to JPMorgan’s private banking division.
The relationship between Mr. Epstein and Mr. Staley, who is known as Jes, is a central issue in the trial. Lawyers for the Virgin Islands have argued that the two men shared sexually suggestive emails about young women and that Mr Epstein sometimes sent Mr Staley “pictures of young women in seductive poses”.
The Virgin Islands have said the bank should have been aware of the emails. Mr. Staley left JPMorgan in 2013 and in 2015 became CEO of Barclays. He resigned the position in 2021 due to the fallout from an investigation by British regulators into how he had characterized his relationship with Epstein.
JPMorgan has said it was not aware of any inappropriate behavior involving Mr. Staley. But the bank has named him as a defendant in a third-party lawsuit, so that if it is determined that Mr. Staley engaged in improper activity, he could be held liable for any damages it may have to pay. A federal judge this week rejected Mr. Staley’s bid to be dismissed from the trial.
Neither Staley nor his lawyers responded to requests for comment, but in court papers he has denied any wrongdoing and has said he was unaware of any sex-trafficking operations.
Lawyers for Mr. Epstein’s victims won a major victory in a similar case last week, when Deutsche Bank, which succeeded JPMorgan as Mr. Epstein’s primary banker, agreed to pay $75 million to settle a proposed class action filed in federal court last . year. The German bank has previously paid a fine of 150 million dollars to the authorities in New York.
The proposed settlement with Deutsche Bank could become a template for any deal with JP Morgan. JPMorgan had managed 40 accounts for Epstein and handled most of his wire transfers, which included payments to women believed to be victims, people briefed on the matter said.
“JPM was his true partner,” said Bradley Edwards, who, along with David Boies, is part of the legal team representing Mr. Epstein’s victims in the lawsuit. “There is no real comparison between the two cases.”
To date, Mr. Epstein’s estate — once valued at $600 million — has paid out more than $150 million in settlements to more than 125 victims. Those victims may be eligible to receive some of the money from the proposed settlement with Deutsche Bank.
The Virgin Islands lawsuit against JPMorgan arose out of information the territory had gathered during litigation involving Mr. Epstein’s estate. The Virgin Islands had sued to recover tens of millions in tax breaks it had awarded to Mr. Epstein’s St. Thomas-based businesses, reaching a $105 million settlement in November.
The Virgin Islands’ own relationship with Epstein has also caused controversy over the years. Not only did it award lucrative tax breaks to his businesses, but in 2012 the government eased travel restrictions on Epstein at the request of his lawyers, according to documents obtained by The Times through a public records request.
Because of his status as a sex offender, Epstein was required to notify authorities of any travel plans, but that advance notice was cut to one day from about three weeks by the Virgin Islands attorney general at the time, the documents show.
JPMorgan has addressed some of these criticisms of the Virgin Islands government to argue that the territory is unable to sue for damages. The bank said in a court filing on Tuesday that officials in the US territory had a long history of cozying up to Mr Epstein and looked “the other way when he went through USVI airports with girls and young women”.
The bank also noted that Epstein made frequent campaign donations to local politicians, and it has sought information about Cecile de Jongh, the wife of a former governor of the Virgin Islands, who was the longtime chief of staff for Epstein’s companies. It is also set to oust Albert Bryan Jr., the current governor, who chaired the agency that awarded Mr. Epstein’s businesses the big tax breaks.