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Jes Staley, former chief executive officer of Barclays Plc, departs the offices of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP in New York, US, on Sunday, June 11, 2023. Staley has faced his second day of testimony about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein as part of lawsuits alleging the bank enabled the late financiers sex-trafficking. Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein’s bankers

Jeffrey Epstein’s bankers


One of the banks that helped protect the paedophile financier has settled a lawsuit brought by a survivor of Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse.

JP Morgan announced it was settling a lawsuit filed against it by victims of the late sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein for a reported $290 million. The deal was a long time coming. When Epstein committed suicide in prison nearly four years ago, his death robbed his victims of any hope of personal justice – but not of holding his enablers to account. So they sued the bank that handled most of his accounts. 

It was one of a wave of lawsuits, some still playing out, that has exposed a web of connections with Epstein at its centre. Prince Andrew is not named in any of the lawsuits but was often drawn into the web. So were plutocrats and celebrities from east coast to west, and Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s girlfriend, now jailed for facilitating his sex trafficking. But another key figure often at his side was Jes Staley, once a giant of Wall Street, whose biography has turned into a cautionary tale about what happens when the business of making money is presented with a test of character, and fails. 

Tortoise has spoken to experts and investigators and reviewed hundreds of pages of legal documents to reconstruct the story of Epstein’s money men, which in late 2009 places Staley in a hot tub in the Caribbean. It’s on Epstein’s private island. Epstein isn’t there, but Staley is grateful for his hospitality. 

He taps out a message: “This is an amazing place, Truly amazing. Next time, we’re here together. I owe you much. And I deeply appreciate our friendship. I have few so profound.”

Staley at this point is a senior executive at JP Morgan, looking after the bank’s very richest clients. Epstein is one of them. Staley takes customer service very seriously and has visited Epstein at home dozens of times. Between 2008 and 2012, he exchanged more than twelve hundred emails with Epstein from his JP Morgan account.

“That was fun. Say hi to Snow White.”

“[W]hat character would you like next?”

“Beauty and the Beast”

By 2013, Staley got tired of waiting for the top job at JP Morgan. He left and was soon hired in the UK by Barclays, as their CEO, with a big vision of turning it into an aggressive global investment bank. But the emails to and from Epstein stayed in the ether and the trauma inflicted on his victims lived on. 

In November 2022, an anonymous woman known as Jane Doe 1 sued JP Morgan, accusing the bank of facilitating Epstein’s empire and her abuse. 

Jane Doe 1 was living with her mother when she met Jeffrey Epstein in 2006. She was a ballet dancer in New York when she was recruited to meet him by another young woman.

Jane Doe fell quickly into his abusive world.

She was chastised if she refused Epstein’s sexual demands and told she should be grateful that he was willing to help her with her career and education. She came to believe what she was told.

Jane Doe alleges she was a sex slave, trafficked, raped and abused.

In her lawsuit it is alleged that at least one of Epstein’s friends used aggressive force in his sexual assault of her and informed Doe 1 that he had Epstein’s permission to do what he wanted to her.”

As part of the ensuing legal battle, JP Morgan forced Jane Doe 1 to disclose the man’s name, the man she accused of sexual assault. In April, JP Morgan’s legal filing revealed: “Staley.”

So JP Morgan fought back, suing Staley, its own former executive, alleging that he had failed in his duty to the company. ​​

Staley denies the allegation of abuse and maintains he had no knowledge of Epstein’s offending.

But it is alleged by Jane Doe 1 that Jes Staley had:

  • personally observed her as a sex trafficking and abuse victim, 
  • spent time with young girls whom he met through Epstein
  •  and personally observed “Epstein sexually grab young women in front of him.” 

Jeffrey Epstein had a lot of money to invest at JP Morgan. There were about 55 Epstein-related accounts, collectively worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

When he died, his estate was valued at $660 million, including $56 million in cash, $127 million in fixed income and equity investments; $195 million in hedge fund and private equity investments and $18.5 million in planes, boats, and automobiles.

The estate also included shares of various corporate entities which hold residences and property used by Epstein, including his Upper East Side mansion valued at $56 million; a ranch in New Mexico valued at $72 million; a gated home in Palm Beach, Florida, valued at $12 million; seven units in an apartment building in Paris, valued at $8 million; the islands of Great St. James and Little St. James, collectively valued at $86 million.

And he had a book of contacts he seemed happy to send the bank’s way for lucrative deals. So the relationship with Epstein was immensely valuable for the bank, for Staley, and for Epstein.

But it was obvious to people at JP Morgan they had a problem.

When the first allegations connecting Epstein to underage sex started to emerge from Florida in 2006, JP Morgan could hardly feign ignorance.

In an interview under oath as part of the current lawsuit, Mary Erdoes, a senior executive at JP Morgan, admits that by 2006 they knew Epstein was “accused of paying cash to have underage girls and young women brought to his home”.

Two years later, in June 2008, Epstein was convicted. There had been 36 girls, some as young as 14, making allegations, but he struck a plea deal and only two counts were dealt with. He was given an 18-month prison sentence and became a registered sex offender.

His behaviour was so widely understood at JP Morgan that senior executives emailed jokes to each other about his interest in young girls.

In the meantime cash was flowing out of his accounts: $800,000 was taken in over-the-counter cash withdrawals in 2004 and 2005 alone. Repeated large cash withdrawals are a red flag for money laundering, and some JP Morgan staff in charge of monitoring suspicious accounts thought they would have to ditch Epstein as a customer.

There is an email from August 2008, only weeks after Epstein was jailed, in which a compliance official at the bank says “I would count Epstein’s assets as a probable outflow for ’08 ($120m or so?) as I can’t imagine it will stay (pending Dimon review).”

That last phrase – ‘Pending Dimon review’ – will be argued over by lawyers. It’s a reference to Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan since 2005, and it leaves unclear whether he was already doing a review of the Epstein accounts given what was known about his sexual offences, or whether it simply meant that if a decision was taken to shut the Epstein accounts, Dimon would have to review it.

This much is clear about 2008. No-one at JP Morgan shuts down any Epstein accounts.

Jes Staley stayed in close contact with Epstein. He visited him in Florida while he was on day release from jail.

The documents allege that weeks after Epstein was jailed, he even advised Staley on his salary negotiations at JP Morgan. They allege, further, that “Staley was the key to making all of Epstein’s depraved dreams of sexual abuse and sex trafficking of countless young women possible.”

“Epstein was doling out thousands of dollars in cash every single day as hush money to victims he was sexually abusing and to victims he was using to recruit additional victims.

“If Epstein paid every victim with wire transfers and left a documented money trail, his illegal sexual abuse and sex trafficking operation would have been easily uncovered; however, with access to unlimited amounts of cash, Epstein was able to commit the most egregious sexual crimes many times a day without leaving a paper trail.”

By 2008, Epstein’s accounts were under review. In 2010, the documents show compliance staff at JP Morgan were saying the accounts of Epstein “should go”. Again in January 2011 the compliance people were listing a host of red flags.

Memos show the bank knows of a US Federal investigation into whether a French modelling agency “fed [Epstein’s] appetite for underage foreign girls”.

Numerous JP Morgan senior executives, including Mary Erdoes and Jes Staley, met multiple times in 2008, 2011 and 2013 – but Mary Erdoes allegedly intervened to keep Epstein as a client because he was so important in the recruitment of new private banking clients.

It was Jes Staley who managed the relationship, and that did him no harm at JP Morgan. In September 2009 weeks after Epstein finished his prison sentence, Staley was promoted to head of the investment bank.

A few weeks after he was in the tub on Epstein’s private island, raising a glass to his absent host. 

In light of the abuse allegations now raised against Jes Staley, there are other lines from that cache of 1,200 emails with Epstein that are getting particular scrutiny. 

Between 27 and 29 August 2009, Staley emails Epstein saying he would be in London in a week’s time. 

Epstein asks whether Staley would need anything while in London, and Staley replies, “Yep.” 

Within days, Epstein wires $3,000 from his JP Morgan account to an Eastern European woman. A few months earlier, in January 2009, Epstein paid $2,000 to the same woman when Staley was visiting his home in Florida.

There is another cryptic exchange, in July 2010. Staley sends an email to Epstein, saying something apparently loaded with meaning: That was fun. Say hi to Snow White.” 

Epstein replies: “[W]hat character would you like next?”

Staley says: “Beauty and the Beast”

And Epstein replies: “Well one side is available.”

Jes Staley left JP Morgan in 2013 and went to Barclays as CEO two years later. 

Barclays is not involved in the Epstein lawsuits, and had no relationship with Epstein, but Staley is now fighting for his name and his fortune. 

He gave evidence under oath this month. It is not yet known whether he added to his claims that Dimon was personally involved in discussions about Epstein at JP Morgan, but whatever he said clearly alarmed the bank, because one day later, on Monday 12 June, New York City woke up to the announcement that Jane Doe’s lawyers had reached a deal with the bank to settle the case.

The bank said it decided to settle in the best interests of the survivors and claimed JP Morgan would never have continued to do business with Epstein if it believed he was using the bank to help commit crimes.

Lawyers close to the case say JP Morgan is prepared to pay $290 million to end the legal action. More than 100 women could benefit.

We invited JP Morgan, Staley and Barclays to comment but they did not respond.