NEW YORK: A US judge is weighing final approval of JPMorgan Chase’s US$290 million settlement with women who said Jeffrey Epstein abused them, and that the largest US bank turned a blind eye to the late financier’s sex trafficking.
At a hearing in Manhattan federal court on Thursday, US district judge Jed Rakoff appeared skeptical of an objection to the settlement by 16 US states and Washington DC, which said it could limit their ability to seek damages arising from sex trafficking by Epstein and his associates.
James Grayson, a lawyer for New Mexico, said in court the state has an ongoing investigation into the matter, without providing further details. Epstein owned a ranch in New Mexico, where some women have said he abused them.
Grayson said he was concerned JPMorgan could seek to block claims states may bring in the future.
Rakoff countered the states had not yet brought any claims, and pointed to JPMorgan’s September agreement to pay US$75 million to settle claims by the US Virgin Islands, where Epstein owned two islands.
“You guys sat on your hands and now you want to object to the settlement,” Rakoff said.
Rakoff had granted JPMorgan’s preliminary approval in June, calling it a “really fine settlement.”
The settlement covered more than 100 women, led by a former ballet dancer known as Jane Doe 1, who said Epstein abused them.
It followed embarrassing disclosures that JPMorgan ignored internal warnings and overlooked red flags about Epstein because he had been a valuable client.
Epstein was a JPMorgan client from 1998 to 2013. The bank kept him on even after he was arrested in 2006 on prostitution charges and pleaded guilty two years later.
JPMorgan did not admit wrongdoing in agreeing to settle.
At the hearing, Rakoff will also hear from one of Epstein’s accusers, Sarah Ransome, who has argued that the settlement is too small and does not explain how funds will be distributed.
Rakoff on Oct 20 gave final approval to a similar US$75 million settlement between Epstein’s accusers and Deutsche Bank , where Epstein banked after JPMorgan fired him.
Epstein died in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 at age 66 while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. New York City’s medical examiner ruled the death a suicide.
Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s former girlfriend and longtime associate, is serving a 20-year prison sentence after being convicted in December 2021 of recruiting and grooming teenage girls for him to abuse. She is appealing her conviction.