MANHATTAN (CN) — “JPMorgan was a full service bank for Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking,” attorneys for the U.S. Virgin Islands told a New York federal judge on Thursday, asking for summary judgment in a civil suit that seeks $190 million in damages from the banking giant for disregarding over a decade of underage sex trafficking.
The U.S. Virgin Islands, the longtime home of Epstein's private island residence off St. Thomas, alleges in a civil complaint that JPMorgan Chase knew about and recklessly disregarded that the pedophile financier ran a sex trafficking venture, which lawyers say brought $1 billion into the bank between 2003 and Epstein’s death in 2019.
“JPMorgan’s entire business with Jeffrey Epstein was sex trafficking,” Motley Rice attorney Mimi Liu told U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff on Thursday afternoon.
The civil complaint was brought in the Southern District of New York last year under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).
Although Epstein had been a JPMorgan client from 1998 through 2013, when the bank terminated his accounts, the U.S. Virgin Islands alleges the bank continued to benefit from Epstein’s referrals until his jailhouse death in August 2019.
By the time of Epstein’s 2006 arrest for prostitution in Palm Beach, Florida, the company’s compliance staff had been aware of alleged human trafficking and acknowledged Epstein was “known to pay cash for his massages” and “minors are the issue,” the U.S. Virgin Islands alleges in its motion for summary judgment.
In its amended complaint, the U.S. Virgin Islands asserted that numerous top bank executives knowingly failed to comply with federal banking laws that are intended to prevent human trafficking between 2000 and 2013, the years that JPMorgan Chase conducted business with Epstein. The filing makes clear that banks have access to unique, real-time information that enables them to detect whether customers may be engaged in suspicious or unlawful activity.
During the decade between 2003 and 2013, the bank processed $4 million in payments to girls and women with Eastern European surnames or located in Eastern Europe, from where JPMorgan knew Epstein was reported to have trafficked girls, Liu said.
The bank also facilitated $5 million in structured cash withdrawals for Epstein, who was known to pay girls $200 to $300 in cash for massages, up to three times, which Liu said totaled overall to “more than 20,000 unlawful sex acts facilitated by JPMorgan.”
The territory wants JPMorgan to pay $190 million in civil damages for his 16-year relationship with the bank, comprised of a $150 million civil fine and $40 million forfeiture.
The U.S. Virgin Islands further alleges JPMorgan also handled millions of dollars in payments from Epstein to known co-conspirators, recruiters, victims, girls and women until 2019, including payments to women in years that coincided with their trips to the territory.
JPMorgan reached a private settlement with Epstein’s victims earlier this year, agreeing in June to pay $290 million to resolve a federal class action brought by a group of woman who were trafficked and abused.
JPMorgan’s settlement with victims, still pending Rakoff’s approval, was nearly six times larger than the $75 million settlement reached a month prior with Germany's Deutsche Bank, which did business with Epstein from 2013 to 2018.
JPMorgan’s attorneys argued Thursday that the company’s settlement the victims should bar the U.S. Virgin Islands’ claims for compensatory damages that are available to victims individually.
“First, USVI can only sue to vindicate the interests of 'residents,' and here it has no proof that any victim was a resident of the USVI (rather than a person trafficked to or from the Islands),” JPMorgan argued in its motion for summary judgment. “Second, USVI’s demand for damages ‘on behalf of victims’ ignores the fact that victims have already obtained damages in the two related cases.”
The hearing concluded without a ruling on the cross-motions for summary judgment, with Rakoff promising a ruling by the end of September at the latest.
Rakoff said Thursday that the Oct. 23rd, 2023 trial date is a “firm, fixed, final and unmovable date.”
“Only in my nightmares do I see this a bench trial,” the Clinton-appointed judge quipped.
JPMorgan Chase sued its former executive Jes Staley in March, alleging in a third-party complaint that he aided in hiding Epstein’s yearslong sex abuse and trafficking to keep the financier as a client.
The New York bank seeks to hold Staley personally liable for any financial penalties that JPMorgan may have to pay in two related cases. It is also seeking to force Staley to pay back wages he earned during the time he allegedly was aware of the abuse and “personally observed” Epstein’s behavior on multiple occasions.
Rakoff will hear arguments on such third-party disputes on September 26th.
Staley left JPMorgan in 2013 to become CEO of London-based bank Barclays. He resigned last year following a report by British regulators into his past links with Epstein.
Two years after Epstein’s death in a Manhattan jail cell, the Epstein Victims’ Compensation Program announced it had awarded nearly $125 million to approximately 150 eligible claimants, roughly one year after the program launched on June 25, 2020.Follow @jruss_jruss
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