Unless you have been living off the grid for the past month, chances are you have seen a barrage of headlines blaring that the largest bank in the United States, JPMorgan Chase, agreed to settle a class action lawsuit for $290 million that was filed by sexual assault victims of Jeffrey Epstein, some when they were as young as 14 years old. The bank’s involvement stemmed from it providing the hard cash to Epstein from his accounts at the bank to pay off his victims and accomplices (in violation of money laundering rules) while he reciprocated by referring clients and profitable deals to the bank.
It now turns out that the case is not actually “settled.” JPMorgan Chase and its 1,000-attorney law firm that is representing it in the matter, WilmerHale, have quietly filed a petition to appeal the decision rendered by the District Court Judge, Jed Rakoff, to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The bank and its lawyers don’t like the fact that Judge Rakoff took the claims of the one plaintiff, Jane Doe 1, and certified them into a class action lawsuit on behalf of a large group of Epstein victims. The bank’s petition to appeal calls this decision by Judge Rakoff “rife with error.”
But, very cunningly, if Rakoff grants final approval to the terms of the settlement fashioned by the Machiavellian legal brains at JPMorgan and WilmerHale, then JPMorgan Chase will just overlook the District Court’s “rife with error” decision and go along with the settlement. The petition to appeal states:
“While JPMC agrees to a settlement class, the litigation class certified below violates Rule 23. JPMC will withdraw the Petition if the district court approves the proposed settlement, but this Petition should be granted if this case proceeds to trial….”
One might be forgiven for thinking that the biggest bank in the U.S., armed with one of the biggest law firms, has put a gun to the head of a sitting federal judge to approve their settlement.
Another Machiavellian aspect of this legal maneuver is that JPMorgan Chase and WilmerHale wanted this petition to appeal to be held under seal and in abeyance until the court granted final approval to the settlement. But the Fairness Hearing that must be held before any final settlement is granted by the Judge is not scheduled until November 9, 2023. That would mean that the Appeals Court would be holding this appeal in abeyance for more than three months. The Second Circuit said it would only allow the petition to appeal to be held in abeyance for 45 days.
That 45 days, however, could pose a problem for Epstein’s victims. They have just 30 days from receiving a notice about the terms of the settlement to opt out. That notice was supposed to go out within 7 days of Judge Rakoff granting preliminary approval to the settlement on June 26. If victims don’t opt out, the settlement mandates that they will forever be bound by its terms and that Machiavellian release, even if they can prove that they didn’t receive the notice advising of the deadline for opting out.
But that is far from the only Machiavellian aspect of the settlement terms. Epstein’s victims have to file a release of all of their claims before they learn if they are to get an award. There is no minimum or maximum amount they can get, so they could release all their claims and end up with no monetary award, according to the terms of the settlement.
Also, there is a secret side agreement buried in the settlement. The victims will be bound by the terms of a Paragraph 10 of a “Confidential Term Sheet,” which was crafted during mediation negotiations, but we could find no such document in the court records. We contacted the three key attorneys for the Epstein victims, seeking this document, as well as the entire Management Committee of WilmerHale, consisting of 18 attorneys, and no one was forthcoming with an answer as to how it is legal to have a secret side agreement in a class action involving potentially more than 100 victims of Epstein – many of whom have been waiting for decades for the justice system in the United States to stop cutting deals with Epstein and his accomplices and enablers.
This Paragraph 10 of the “Confidential Term Sheet” could be a brief paragraph or it could be 5 pages long, covering a host of loopholes for JPMorgan Chase, whose reputation for honesty and fair-dealing is tainted by its five felony counts – each of which it admitted guilt to with the U.S. Department of Justice, which then kindly granted the bank a deferred prosecution agreement in each instance.
Then there is the insane broadness of the Machiavellian release that victims must sign. The settlement includes this problematic language in one part of the release:
“This release is intended to release, to the maximum extent allowable under law, any claims, rights and causes of action against Released Defendant Parties of every nature and description…including both known and Unknown Claims…whether arising under federal law, state law, statutory law, common law, foreign law, or any other law, rule, or regulation, that could be brought to recover damages from the Released Defendant Parties on behalf of a Member of the Class by any other party, including any sovereign or government, relating to or arising from any Member of the Class’s harm, injury, abuse, exploitation, or trafficking by Jeffrey Epstein or by any person who is in any way connected to or otherwise associated with Jeffrey Epstein, as well as any right to recovery on account thereof.” (Bold type added for emphasis by us.)
Attorneys for the U.S. Virgin Islands, which have a lawsuit pending in Judge Rakoff’s court against JPMorgan Chase, also on the grounds that the bank aided and abetted Epstein’s sex trafficking organization, were quick to notice the language in the release about a “government” and called it to Rakoff’s attention. Like Wall Street On Parade, they felt it could be an attempt to extinguish their right to bring their case. (We have no further details on where that issue stands at this time.) This curious language could also be an effort to preempt State Attorneys General from bringing a case. Epstein was conducting his sex trafficking in at least three U.S. states in addition to the U.S. Virgin Islands: New York, Florida, and New Mexico where he had homes; and, possibly, Ohio, where some JPMorgan Board Members and Epstein were in business together with retailing titan Leslie Wexner. Those relationships are just starting to be explored in a lawsuit brought against Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, former bank executive Jes Staley, and certain Board members by two pension fund shareholders. That case also landed in Rakoff’s courtroom.
The question that good legal minds who have been following these cases and reading all of the explosive internal emails from JPMorgan Chase are asking is this: why is the U.S. Virgin Islands left to bring just a civil case against JPMorgan Chase? Why isn’t the U.S. Department of Justice bringing criminal charges against the bank – as it did when the bank was caught facilitating Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme for decades by ignoring money laundering reporting requirements?
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