JP Morgan
© Dylan Martinez / Reuters
Manhattan judge allows central accusations that banks benefited from ties to sex trafficker to proceed

A US judge has ruled that a pair of lawsuits accusing two major banks of knowingly benefiting from ties to sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein can proceed, though in a narrower form than had been initially filed.

The four-page ruling by Manhattan district judge Jed Rakoff granted motions by JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank to dismiss some counts against them, but permitted the central claims brought by Epstein accusers and the US Virgin Islands to proceed.

The lawsuit against JPMorgan, filed by a woman on behalf of other Epstein victims claims the bank "knowingly benefited from participating in a sex trafficking venture" led by Epstein, a client from 1998 through 2013, and had "negligently failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent physical harm".

The judge also permitted similar claims against Deutsche Bank which had accepted Epstein as a client in 2013 even after 40 underage girls made sexual assault claims against him.

The German bank has previously been fined $150m by banking regulators over its dealings with the disgraced financier, who died while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges in August 2109.

The court also ruled that a third lawsuit, brought by the US Virgin Islands where Epstein owned a private island where he hosted friends including Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Britain's Prince Andrew, claiming that JPMorgan enabled the late financier's sex trafficking operation can also proceed.

But Rakoff threw out six of the 10 claims against JPMorgan and eight of 12 against Deutsche Bank in the suit brought by "Jane Doe", as well as three of the four claims against JPMorgan in the US Virgin Islands suit. The judge said he would issue a fuller opinion "in due course".

The ruling came after lawyers for JPMorgan argued that the claims had failed to meet a legal threshold showing the bank knew or participated in Epstein's sex trafficking. The plaintiff argued that Epstein was given special treatment because he brought in wealthy clients.

Brad Edwards, the attorney representing Epstein abuse accusers, called the rulings Monday "a monumental victory for the hundreds of survivors of Jeffrey Epstein's sex trafficking scheme and survivors of sexual abuse in general, all of whom can rest easier knowing no individual or institution is above accountability".

Edwards added that Epstein's sex trafficking operation would have been "impossible without the assistance of JPMorgan Chase, and later Deutsche Bank".

The rulings clear the way from plaintiffs in the lawsuits to pursue further discovery ahead of a trial.
jes staley banker epstein
Former JPMorgan executive Jes Staley and Jeffery Epstein
Mary Erdoes, JPMorgan's asset and wealth management chief executive officer, was deposed earlier this month. Former executive Jes Staley, who went on to become CEO of Barclay Plc before resigning in 2021 over his ties to Epstein, is due to face a two-day deposition starting later this week, according to Bloomberg.

Court filings have shown that Staley and Epstein exchanged more than 1,200 emails, some of which referred to young women, including one referring to "Snow White".