Politics

Executors of Jeffrey Epstein estate want to set up compensation fund for his sex abuse victims

Key Points
  • The executors of accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein's estate asked a judge in the U.S. Virgin Islands for approval to set up a voluntary compensation program for his victims.
  • The program would be led by claims experts including Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw the U.S. government's compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
  • Epstein, a former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, died in August in jail while awaiting trial.
U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019.
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services | Handout | Reuters

The executors of the estate of late accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein on Thursday asked a judge in the U.S. Virgin Islands for approval to set up a voluntary compensation program for victims of the wealthy financier.

The fund, to be run by an independent claims expert, could reduce the number of pending and anticipated victim lawsuits against Epstein's estate by giving women money they would otherwise seek through litigation.

The co-executors of Epstein's estate, Darren Indyke and Richard Kahn, on Thursday filed documents in probate court in the Virgin Islands asking for expedited approval of the voluntary claims resolution program. Epstein had a residence on a private island he owned there.

The court filing said that to the knowledge of the co-executors, this is the first time that a probate court has been asked to set up a mass claim program to resolve "sexual abuse claims filed by multiple claimants against a decedent's estate."

"As a matter of public policy alone, the urgency of this matter cannot be overstated," the filing said.

The request to establish the fund comes three months after the 66-year-old Epstein — a former friend of President Donald Trump and Bill Clinton — died from what authorities have ruled suicide by hanging while awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges in a Manhattan jail.

"The Co-Executors seek to provide claimants the opportunity to obtain appropriate compensation and to be heard and treated with compassion, dignity and respect," according to a press release issued by Indyke and Kahn.

The proposed program would be led by attorney Jordana Feldman, who has served as deputy special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

The program would be designed by Feldman and Kenneth Feinberg — who oversaw the U.S. government's compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, along with other high-profile compensation programs — and Feinberg's associate Camille Biros, who has worked with him on compensation programs for sex abuse victims of Roman Catholic priests.

Feldman would "have complete autonomy and decision-making authority over program operations and claim determinations," according to the press release.

"And the Estate will have no authority to modify or reject Ms. Feldman's decisions on any basis or as to any claim," the release said.

The program would begin accepting claims around three months after being approved by the court.

That program would "allow eligible individuals the opportunity to resolve their sexual abuse claims against Mr. Epstein and his Estate through a confidential, non-adversarial alternative to litigation," the release said.

Epstein's estate is valued at more than $570 million.

So far, 12 lawsuits involving sex abuse claims against Epstein have been filed in federal and state courts in New York, and one has been filed in the Virgin Islands.

And "the co-executors anticipate that more Sexual Abuse Claims may be filed in various jurisdictions including New York, Florida, New Mexico and France," the court filing Thursday said.

Kenneth Feinberg
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

Feinberg said in a prepared statement, "We are pleased to have been asked to implement this important program, and are eager to begin designing it so that claimants will have a forum where their suffering is acknowledged and their claims are promptly and appropriately compensated."

Brad Edwards, a lawyer for a number of Epstein accusers, told CNBC in an email, "If the Estate is placing all estate assets into the claims program for victims, then it is a positive step."

"In the meantime, we intend to get the filed cases to trial quickly. Either way, justice for our clients, without delay, is our goal," Edwards said.

Daniel Kaiser, a lawyer for an Epstein accuser, Jennifer Araoz, said Araoz "is supportive of all efforts to insure Epstein victims are adequately compensated for their terrible victimization at the hands of Jeffrey Epstein."

But, Kaiser added, "Jennifer has decided that the best legal course of action for her is her court action filed in New York State court as a result of the fact that she still has a current claim under the Child's Victims Act."

Araoz's lawyers last week filed a notice of a lien on Epstein's New York mansion as part of their claim.

Robbie Kaplan, a lawyer for another Epstein accuser, said, "We have said all along that any settlement process here needs to involve two steps, an accurate accounting of all of Jeffrey Epstein's assets; and a fair process for survivors to make claims."

"Given that this latest fund was launched without our input or consent, we will keep an open mind because we are supportive of attempts to fairly compensate these survivors, but both the Estate and the new administrators have a lot to prove," Kaplan said.

Epstein was arrested in July on child sex trafficking charges related to his alleged abuse of dozens of underage girls in his Manhattan townhouse and Palm Beach, Florida, mansion from 2002 through 2005.

Epstein pleaded not guilty in the case. He died from hanging while being held in a federal jail in Manhattan.

The New York City Chief Medical Examiner's Office ruled that he committed suicide.

But a forensic pathologist hired by Epstein's brother has said the injuries Epstein suffered are more commonly found in victims of homicides than in suicide.

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NBC archive footage shows Trump partying with Jeffrey Epstein in 1992