New exhibits filed Tuesday in the V.I. government’s lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase reveal how the bank’s top brass continued to court Jeffrey Epstein for his ties to some of the world’s wealthiest individuals even as its compliance arm warned that he was a growing liability as a felon under investigation for sex crimes.
The exhibits include a June 7 letter to Judge Jed Rakoff of Manhattan federal court that was previously filed under seal, seeking to allow the V.I. Attorney General’s Office to reopen depositions in light of information it received after questioning key witnesses in the case, including JPMorgan’s billionaire CEO Jamie Dimon.
Rakoff on Friday denied that motion, and on Tuesday the government unsealed 10 exhibits offering a closer look at JPMorgan’s relationship with Epstein, the wealthy financier who died by apparent suicide in August 2019 while in custody in New York on federal child sex trafficking charges. His primary residence was Little St. James, his private island estate of St. Thomas.
The government’s complaint, filed Dec. 27 in Manhattan federal court, claims JPMorgan violated the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act in its services to Epstein, whom it kept as a client even after his 2008 conviction for procuring a minor for prostitution in Florida. The case is scheduled for trial on Oct. 23.
“Jeffrey Epstein connected JPMorgan Chase’s executives with some of the world’s most high profile and wealthy individuals,” the V.I. Attorney General’s Office said in a statement following Tuesday’s filing. “The USVI’s complaint alleges that, in return for bringing valuable new clients into the bank, JPMorgan Chase, through its senior executives, including Mary Erdoes, ignored the evidence of Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes and traded victims’ public safety for its own profits.”
Friends in High Places
According to the government’s filing, Epstein offered JPMorgan access to such high-profile individuals as Prince Andrew of Great Britain, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, American billionaire and private equity investor Leon Black, former U.S. presidential adviser David Gergen, Israeli general and politician Ehud Barak, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the children of former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, Lord Peter Mandelson of the British government, the Agnelli family of Fiat Motor Company fame, and the ruling sheiks of Kuwait, Bahrain, Dubai, and the United Arab Emirates, among many others.
Meanwhile, employees with the bank’s compliance arm were sounding alarms that Epstein was under federal investigation for child sex trafficking, which was drawing press attention, and that the bank should drop him as a client, according to the filings.
JPMorgan’s top officials eventually ordered an internal investigation into the bank’s Epstein ties in 2019 — a probe that became known as “Project Jeep.” It released an unredacted summary of those findings to the government on May 30, the last day for discovery in the case, according to Tuesday’s filing.
According to the summary — a 22-page bulleted list detailing emails between Epstein, Jes Staley, the former CEO of investment banking, Erdoes, the CEO of asset and wealth management, and occasionally others dating back to 2008 — Epstein was actively involved in the business of JPMorgan, particularly through Staley.
JPMorgan in March filed a third-party lawsuit against Staley, alleging he thwarted its efforts to sever ties with Epstein and should pay if the V.I. government prevails in its suit. Rakoff in April denied Staley’s motion to dismiss the suit.
According to the “Project Jeep” summary, the pair had a close relationship, with Staley maintaining communications even while Epstein was serving time in Florida on the child prostitution charges.
Staley consulted Epstein on everything from his compensation package and his dealings with the Federal Reserve, to the bank’s real estate portfolio and his promotion to CEO of investment banking in 2009, to asset acquisitions and JPMorgan’s forays into China, according to the exhibit.
In an October 2009 email, Epstein wrote to Staley, “feel free to call often, it is difficult for the quarterback to see the playing field. That’s why he calls up to the box.”
A few days later, he wrote to Staley, “my suggestion Your first Great move, should be a new CHina, initiative. first it was alternative investments now china. , you should have a dedicated china entity , with its own board of advisors, should include china politicos. they love to travel. you should be their link to treasury .. or you can issue credit default swaps, for their investment in us co , and you can ask the treasury to be the third party – just an example.”
“Brilliant!” Staley replied.
Epstein went on to organize a tutorial for Staley on doing business in China, according to the summary, and wrote an extensive email laying out the steps for JPMorgan to expand its business in the country, “down to details surrounding the culture, office locations and suggestions for approaching government officials.”
Epstein also suggested Staley “might want to approach abu dhabi, and say as a key player in the world financial system, you will advise them for free. If and only if they decide to implement your advicei.e. sale of assets. thats how you will be compensated. just an idea.”
A day later, on Nov. 29, 2009, Staley forwarded Esptein what appeared to be an internal email regarding discussions with senior officials in the Dubai and Abu Dhabi departments of finance, according to the summary. Two days later, Epstein wrote to Staley, “The first most elegant deal that you can do. is to have China buy Dubai World Ports. They want turnkey, ops where they can then use their worldwide construction cos for building. would be a first great deal for the new ceo of the IB.”
A Close Friendship
On Dec. 3, 2009, Staley wrote to Epstein, “I realize the danger in sending this e-mail. But it was great to be able, today, to give you, in New York City, a long heartfelt, hug. To my friend, thanks. Jes.” According to the summary, it appears that at the time Epstein was not permitted to leave the state of Florida based on the terms of his sentence, “which provides context to the preface of Staley’s email.”
The relationship extended to the U.S. Virgin Islands, which Staley appears to have visited with some frequency, including on his sailboat Bequia, according to the court filings. On Dec. 26, 2009, he wrote to Epstein, “Fun tonight. What do we do next?????” Epstein replied, “my car and driver ,, former dea armed. will pick you up in st thomas we have all the on field permits.. helicopter also available for a tour around , … remember I own the two big marinas.. yacht haven grand, in st thomas and the marina at red hook… you can use my atv’s jet ski gym etc. , i will organize the harbor at Norman island if you like, in the bvil . as well as lunch at guana.”
On Jan. 14, 2010, Staley wrote to Epstein, “Arrived at your harbor. Someday we’ll have to do this together.”
By March 5, 2011, as news of investigations into Epstein was taking hold in the press, he emailed Staley, “more bad press. Ignore it.” Staley replied, “The post?” Epstein replied, “no,, english papers have gone berserk,, claiming fbi re opening investigation. not true,, publishing a phonebook that is not mine , but was stolen by my houseman cuurently in prison for doing so.”
The same day, Staley wrote to Epstein that he and his wife “were talking tonight about what you have meant to me and to [redacted]. You have paid a price for what has been accused. But we know what you have done for us. And we count you as one of our deepest friends. And most honest of people. Thanks, Jes.” Epstein replied, “family.”
Three days later, Vanity Fair published an article about Epstein and his onetime girlfriend and accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell, who is currently serving a 20-year sentence for her role in his sex-trafficking scheme.
Trouble on the Horizon
Beginning in 2011, Staley and Erdoes were having regular communications with Epstein relating to certain strategic initiatives and business proposals, including a donor advised fund involving Bill Gates that he proposed could be worth $2 billion within two years, according to the exhibit.
Meanwhile, employees with JPMorgan’s compliance arm held a “Rapid Response meeting” in early January 2011 regarding Epstein and were conducting a review of the bank’s relationship with him amid reports that he was under investigation for allegedly trafficking young girls, according to emails.
Again, Epstein’s personal friendship with Staley was at the center of the discussion.
“He is also an alleged personal associate of the CEO of the Investment Bank (Jes Staley),” the email from Phillip DeLuca, then managing director for the bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit, to two other employees stated. “[Anti Money Laundering] Operations went to a PB risk meeting late last week requesting that we exit this relationship.” It said a meeting was arranged with Staley to discuss the bank’s recent human trafficking initiative with him.
It was two more years before the bank severed its ties with Epstein, though it kept close tabs on his activity as a “high-risk” private bank customer, including annual reviews, according to two exhibits detailing conversations in 2012 and 2013.
JPMorgan has called the V.I. government’s suit a “masterclass in deflection.” Key to their argument is the fact that the V.I. government, through its Economic Development Commission, granted Epstein lucrative tax and other benefits during the same period that it is accusing JPMorgan Chase of helping to further the wealthy financier’s sex trafficking scheme.
The bank contends that, having won a $105 million settlement in its lawsuit against Epstein’s estate in November, the V.I. Attorney General’s Office “now casts afield for deeper pockets.”
On June 12, JPMorgan asked the court to order the government to withdraw confidentiality designations over public records it produced in response to the bank’s document requests. On Friday, Judge Rakoff granted that request, ordering the USVI to de-designate as confidential the annual reports filed by Epstein’s companies to the USVI, as well as his sex-offender file.