81.4 F
Cruz Bay
Tuesday, April 23, 2024
HomeNewsLocal news17 Attorneys General Object to JPMorgan's Settlement with Epstein Victims

17 Attorneys General Object to JPMorgan’s Settlement with Epstein Victims

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, where the V.I. government's case against JPMorgan Chase Bank is being heard. (Shutterstock image)
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, where the V.I. government’s case against JPMorgan Chase Bank was heard, as well as another lawsuit brought against the bank by victims of Jeffrey Epstein. (Shutterstock image)

Attorneys general from 16 states and the District of Columbia have objected to the terms of JPMorgan Chase’s $290 million settlement with Jeffrey Epstein’s victims, saying in a letter to the presiding judge that it would deny them the opportunity to pursue compensation under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, as the U.S. Virgin Islands did.

The USVI has been the only jurisdiction to seek compensation for Epstein’s victims under the TVPA — or at all. The territory settled its lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase for $75 million in September in a hard-won court fight that established its sovereign right to sue under the federal act. While far short of the $190 million the V.I. Justice Department initially sought, the case was hailed as groundbreaking.

On Monday, the attorneys general of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah and Vermont penned a letter to U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, objecting to language in JPMorgan’s settlement with Epstein victims that would prevent further “parens patriae” — or sovereign — claims under the TVPA for damages on behalf of trafficking victims. Notably absent from the letter is Florida, where much of Epstein’s abuse took place.

The suit, Doe 1 v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, was consolidated for pre-trial purposes with the USVI’s action and another brought by Epstein victims against Deutsch Bank, which took Epstein as a client after JPMorgan cut its ties with him in 2013.

“While the issue is now mooted as to the U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General by its parallel settlement with JPMorgan, allowing such a broad release of claims may have serious implications for future cases brought by state law enforcement perpetrators of sex-trafficking under the TVPA,” the letter states.

Rakoff, of Manhattan federal court, has set a deadline of Nov. 6 for parties to the class action to file a response to the letter. He also ordered counsel for the objecting attorneys general to file a notice of appearance with the court and to docket any submissions.

While Epstein is alleged to have committed his crimes in New York, New Mexico, Florida, France and the USVI, where he maintained homes, the USVI is the only jurisdiction to have pursued justice for his victims. New York State financial regulators levied a $150 million penalty against Deutsche Bank for conduct associated with Epstein, and the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority fined former JPMorgan executive Jes Staley 1.8 million pounds ($2.2 million) over his Epstein ties, but in both cases, no money went to victims.

Of the territory’s $75 million JPMorgan settlement, $30 million will support USVI charitable organizations whose work is aimed at addressing social ills, including fighting human trafficking and other sex crimes, and to support survivors on their paths to healing, the bank said in a statement at the time. Another $25 million will go to enhancing the infrastructure and capabilities of law enforcement to prevent and combat human trafficking and other crimes in the territory, and $20 million will be paid in legal fees to Motley Rice, the firm that represented the territory.

The USVI has now secured close to $250 million in settlements, including $105 million in a lawsuit against Epstein’s estate in November and $62.5 million from Leon Black, 72, a billionaire private equity investor who in January paid the V.I. government to be released from any claims related to the territory’s investigation of the sex trafficker.

Under the settlement terms with Epstein’s estate, some of the proceeds from the suit will go to a trust created by the V.I. government to fund “projects, services, counseling programs, organizations and activities that help Virgin Islands residents or inhabitants who are victims of sexual assault, human trafficking, sexual misconduct, and child sexual abuse.”

In addition, a portion of the money will be placed in a special fund for costs and expenses of the Justice Department’s operations, investigations and prosecution of crimes, civil enforcement of violations of Virgin Islands law, and any other matter under the jurisdiction of the attorney general.

Some 150 women who were victims of Epstein’s scheme also were awarded nearly $125 million in early 2022, satisfying all of the claims under the estate’s compensation program, George said at the time. She praised the women for their bravery in assisting the government with the investigation.

Epstein, 66, was found dead by apparent suicide in August 2019 in his New York City jail cell where he was being held on federal sex-trafficking charges. Those charges stemmed from investigations into his controversial 2008 non-prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors in Florida, under which he pled guilty to state charges of soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution despite evidence that dozens more girls were involved. He served 13 months in a work-release program that allowed him to spend most of his days at his Palm Beach office, made payments to victims, and became a registered sex offender.

His primary residence was Little St. James, his private island estate off St. Thomas, where for years he trafficked in girls and young women and ran a complex web of shell companies registered in the USVI that enabled his crimes, court documents have alleged.

The wealthy financier, who held some 50 JPMorgan accounts, was valued at more than $577 million at the time of his death.

The government alleged in its suit against JPMorgan that the bank kept the ultra-wealthy and ultra-connected Epstein as a client from about 1998 to 2013 — despite copious financial evidence of questionable payments to young Eastern European women that it was legally bound to report — because by 2006, when he was under investigation for sex crimes in Florida, Epstein “was too big to fail.”

JPMorgan claimed the U.S. Virgin Islands created a haven for Epstein’s crimes by granting his shell companies lucrative tax breaks totaling some $300 million through its Economic Development Authority and then looking the other way when he traveled to his private island with young women and girls, despite his sex offender status.

Both submitted hundreds upon hundreds of pages of exhibits in support of their arguments.

The V.I. government has been accused of benefiting from Epstein’s scheme with its lawsuits after itself turning a blind eye to his crimes for years, including in a recent story by Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown that detailed his connections to local officials. They included former First Lady Cecile de Jongh, who was his office manager when her husband was governor, and current Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., who was head of the EDA when Epstein was awarded tax benefits and in depositions of V.I. officials in August was said to have tried to ease the travel restrictions for the sex offender.

Bryan’s initial reaction to the JPMorgan suit was to fire former V.I. Attorney General Denise George when she brought the action last December, telling the Source in an interview following his State of the Territory Address in January that, “First and foremost, you know, I can’t have an attorney general that’s launching civil suits that I don’t know about. I have to put on the record, no one in the Virgin Islands is really overly occupied with Epstein, his estate or his bad doings,” he said.

“I personally, and I’m sure many other Virgin Islanders alike, don’t like our name being associated with Jeffrey Epstein and child pornography. You know, why are we going down that rabbit hole? And the irony to me was, you know, four years ago everybody was scrambling not to have been on Jeffrey Epstein’s receiving end of donations,” Bryan said.

“Now we’re suing him for the same dirty money. That seems a little awkward, right? I mean, that’s inconsistent. And I just want to get us away from that. That’s not the light we want to be seen. If we never mention Jeffrey Epstein again, it would be good for me,” he said.

However, upon news of the successful settlement with JPMorgan last month, Bryan issued a statement praising the Justice Department.

“This settlement marks a significant step in achieving justice and bringing closure to this matter. Most importantly it guarantees JPMorgan will implement and establish anti-trafficking measures to meet their obligation to detect and report financial patterns associated with human trafficking,” Bryan said.

“I want to express my gratitude to our legal team at the Virgin Islands Department of Justice and all those who have worked tirelessly to bring this lawsuit to a close. Their dedication to pursuing justice has been unwavering, and their efforts have resulted in this historic milestone,” the governor said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.