In a significant development, a US judge has granted preliminary approval to JPMorgan Chase’s settlement of $290 million with women who alleged that they were abused by Jeffrey Epstein, a late financier known for his involvement in sex trafficking. The judge’s approval was given during a hearing in Manhattan federal court presided over by US District Judge Jed Rakoff.
Judge Rakoff praised the settlement, describing it as a “really fine settlement” during the hearing. He acknowledged that the substantial amount, along with a separate $75 million settlement with Deutsche Bank approved earlier this month, would provide compensation to Epstein’s victims. However, he also noted that the settlements could not fully compensate for the suffering the victims endured.
Epstein had been a client of JPMorgan from 1998 to 2013, with the bank terminating his accounts in 2013. The victims, led by a former ballet dancer referred to as Jane Doe 1, alleged that JPMorgan ignored warning signs of Epstein’s illicit activities and maintained contact with him even after officially severing ties.
Last week, the victims’ lawyers expressed their support for the proposed all-cash settlement, deeming it “fair, adequate, and reasonable” considering the risks associated with further litigation and JPMorgan’s denial of involvement in Epstein’s sex trafficking. In response, JPMorgan issued a statement acknowledging that their association with Epstein was a mistake and expressing regret over it.
It is worth noting that Epstein continued to be a JPMorgan client for five years after pleading guilty in 2008 to a prostitution charge in Florida and registering as a sex offender.
During the hearing, Judge Rakoff questioned the absence of a minimum distribution for each victim, citing the Deutsche Bank settlement as an example where a minimum of $75,000 was guaranteed to each victim. David Boies, the lawyer representing Jane Doe 1, explained that the guaranteed minimum was designed to incentivize victims to come forward, but in the JPMorgan case, such an arrangement was deemed unnecessary.
To oversee individual claims and determine payouts in both the JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank settlements, Judge Rakoff appointed Simone Lelchuk, a lawyer specializing in administering settlements.
In addition to this settlement, JPMorgan is also facing a lawsuit filed by the US Virgin Islands, where Epstein owned two neighboring islands. The trial for that case is currently scheduled for October 23rd.
Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide at the age of 66 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.