Alleged victims of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein sued JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank in a New York court Thursday. The women accused the banks of aiding sex trafficking and enabling the behavior of Epstein, who died in jail while awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges in 2019. Epstein was a client of JPMorgan from 1998 to 2013 and of Deutsche from 2013 to 2018.
“The time has come for the real enablers to be held responsible, especially [Epstein’s] wealthy friends and the financial institutions that played an integral role,” Bradley Edwards, a managing partner at Edwards Pottinger, a law firm representing plaintiffs, said in a written statement, according to The Wall Street Journal. “These victims were wronged, by many, not just Epstein. He did not act alone.”
Plaintiffs in the separate suits — each asking class status — are seeking unspecified damages, attorney fees and a jury trial.
“We believe this claim lacks merit and will present our arguments in court,” a Deutsche Bank spokesperson told the Financial Times, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal. A spokesperson for JPMorgan declined to comment to the publications.
The unnamed woman suing JPMorgan is a former ballet dancer in New York who alleges she was recruited by another young woman and sexually abused by Epstein between 2006 and 2013. She also said she was trafficked to his friends, according to the suit, which asserts that large sums of money were withdrawn from the bank to make cash payments, which Epstein used to pay for sex acts.
A different woman suing Deutsche Bank, identified only as a New York state resident, said Epstein sexually abused her and trafficked her to his friends from about 2003 until about 2018. She alleges she was also paid in cash for sex acts, according to the suit.
"[The banks] knew [Epstein's] accounts were being used for this trafficking based on a number of factors, including but not limited to, the identity of the individuals making the withdrawals and wire transfers, the identity of the recipients, the account opening activity, the pattern of the financial activity, and Epstein's well documented criminal history and involvement in trafficking," the complaints state, according to Law360.
The JPMorgan suit
The suit against JPMorgan cites the bank’s choice to “churn profits” by keeping Epstein as a client even after he was convicted and imprisoned in Florida in 2008.
It also touches on the relationship between Epstein and Jes Staley, then-chief of JPMorgan’s private bank. Epstein introduced Staley to wealthy clients and helped the bank arrange a 2004 deal to buy a majority stake in Highbridge Capital, the suit alleged, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“Staley made sure Epstein and his illegal sexual abuse organization was absolutely protected by the bank,” the lawsuit alleges, according to Bloomberg. A lawyer for Staley declined to comment.
Staley left JPMorgan in 2015 to become CEO of Barclays. He stepped down from Barclays last November amid an investigation by U.K. regulators into how he characterized his relationship with Epstein while at JPMorgan. He is contesting the regulators’ preliminary conclusions.
The plaintiffs’ lawsuit alleges another JPMorgan executive — Mary Erdoes, now head of the bank’s asset- and wealth-management division — also protected Epstein as a client after other executives questioned why the bank worked with him, the Journal reported.
A JPMorgan spokesperson declined to comment to the publication on Erdoes’ behalf. A spokesperson for the bank previously told the outlet that Erdoes recalled one formal meeting with Epstein, “which was the day she fired him as a client.”
The Deutsche suit
Money played into Deutsche’s motivation to take Epstein on as a client in 2013, according to the lawsuit against that bank.
Paul Morris, a banker who had moved to Deutsche after serving as one of Epstein’s private wealth managers at JPMorgan, emailed his bosses at the German lender in 2013 to tell them that Epstein’s accounts could generate $100 million to $300 million in flow and $2 million to $4 million in annual fees, the suit alleges, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Morris didn’t immediately comment to the publication.
The suit against Deutsche leans heavily on findings from the New York Department of Financial Services’ investigation into Epstein. The regulator fined Deutsche $150 million in 2020 for failing to properly monitor its dealings with Epstein. The bank has said it was a mistake to take Epstein as a client and acknowledged weaknesses in its processes.
In particular, last week’s lawsuit cites $2.65 million Epstein sent in more than 120 wire transfers to beneficiaries of the so-called Butterfly Trust, including “a number of women with Eastern European surnames” and some people named as co-conspirators in Epstein’s past cases. The payments were justified as “hotel expenses, tuition and rent,” according to the suit, which also spotlights settlement payments of more than $7 million, legal expenses of more than $6 million and and $800,000 withdrawal by an unnamed attorney for Epstein to pay for travel, tipping and expenses.
“Knowing that they would earn millions of dollars from facilitating Epstein’s sex trafficking, and from its relationship with Epstein, Deutsche Bank chose profit over following the law,” the suit alleges, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Last week’s suit is hardly the first against Deutsche over the bank’s Epstein ties. A federal judge last month gave preliminary approval to a $26.3 million settlement to Deutsche investors who sued in July 2020, noting a drop in share prices after the Federal Reserve reported it identified problems with the bank's internal controls. Investors in that suit pointed also to NYDFS’s Epstein investigation.