Politics

Harvard donates Jeffrey Epstein cash to victim groups, says some faculty asked to resume accepting money from sex criminal in 2013

Key Points
  • Harvard University said it has donated nearly $200,937 remaining from a total of $9.1 million in gifts from convicted sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein to groups that support victims of sex trafficking and assault.
  • The school said a review found that after it refused to accept more donations from Epstein starting in 2008, the year he was convicted of sex crimes in Florida, some Harvard faculty unsuccessfully tried to get the university to resume taking money from Epstein in 2013.
  • Epstein, a former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, was arrested last July on federal charges of child sex trafficking.
  • He killed himself in a Manhattan jail last August while awaiting trial.
Jeffrey Epstein with Alan Dershowitz in 2004.
Rick Friedman | Corbis Historical | Getty Images

Harvard University donated more than $200,000 remaining from a total of $9.1 million in gifts from convicted sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein to groups that support victims of sex trafficking and assault, the Ivy League school said Friday as it released a report detailing the wealthy investor's extensive and sometimes embarassing connections there.

Harvard's report, prepared by general counsel Diane Lopez, revealed that some faculty unsuccessfully tried to get the university to resume taking money from the now-deceased Epstein in 2013.

That was both five years after the school stopped considering donations from him because of concerns about an investigation into him, and five years after he had pleaded guilty to sex crimes in Florida, one of which involved paying for sex from an underage girl.

The report said, in a footnote, that "A number of the Harvard faculty members we interviewed also acknowledged that they visited Epstein at his homes in New York, Florida, New Mexico or the Virgin Islands, visited him in jail or on work release, or traveled on one of his planes."

And a Harvard program funded by an Epstein gift "maintained an office for Epstein's use and granted him keycard and passcode access" to the program's off-campus location even after his 2008 conviction, "findings which raise questions about possible violations of Harvard policies," according to the report.

Professor Michael Nowak, the leader of that effort, the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, has been placed on paid administrative leave from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, according to Harvard.

The dean of FAS, in a statement, said, "The actions taken by" Nowak "as described in the report warrant review to determine whether FAS policies and standards of professional conduct were violated and if additional steps must be taken."

"We do not take this step lightly, but the seriousness of the matter leads us to believe it is not appropriate for Professor Nowak to continue in his role, other than what he will be asked to do to complete the semester," wrote Dean Claudine Gay.

Nowak did not immediately return a request for comment.

The report, among other things, said that Nowak acknowledged that Epstein played a role in helping Nowak obtain unrestricted gifts in 2011 and 2014 totaling $6 million from Apollo Global Management CEO Leon Black and his wife Debra, and another $1 million in gifts from the Black Family Foundation in 2015.

A representative for Black told Harvard for its report, "Jeffrey Epstein introduced Mr. Black to the research that was being undertaken by Professors Church and Nowak."

"Mr. Black met with Professors Nowak and Church to discuss their research in Cambridge, Massachusetts and, in the case of Professor Church, also at Mr. Black's New York office," the represenative for Black said, according to Harvard's report.

"The gifts made in support of Professor Church's and Professor Nowak's research were made by Mr. Black. None of the funds were provided by Mr. Epstein and no attempt was made to conceal the source of these gifts."

Black's lawyer declined to comment Friday when contacted by CNBC.

Harvard's report came almost nine full months after Epstein killed himself in jail in Manhattan while awaiting trial on federal child sex trafficking charges. 

A former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, as well as of Britain's Prince Andrew, Epstein was arrested last July after prosecutors accused of him of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls at his luxurious residences in New York City and Palm Beach, Fla., from 2002 through 2006.

In its new report, Harvard also admitted Epstein as a visiting fellow in the university's  Psychology Department for the 2005-2006 academic year despite the fact that he "lacked the academic qualifications Visiting Fellows typically possess, and his application proposed a course of study Epstein was unqualified to pursue," the report found.

Harvard President Lawrence Bacow in a statement said, "The report issued today describes principled decision-making but also reveals institutional and individual shortcomings that must be addressed — not only for the sake of the University but also in recognition of the courageous individuals who sought to bring Epstein to justice." 

Bacow said that a full review of Epstein's donations to the university confirmed the money man, who never attended Harvard, had donated $9.1 million in combined gifts from 1998 through 2008, "to support a variety of research and faculty activities."

Bacow said that a "review found that $200,937 of gifts [to Harvard] received from Epstein remained unspent."

"In line with the commitment I shared in September, those funds have been divided equally between My Life My Choice, based in Boston, and Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS), based in New York," Bacow wrote.

"These organizations support victims of human trafficking and sexual assault, and Harvard is proud to support their important and valuable work," he added.

The review found that no gifts were received from Epstein following his conviction in 2008 in Florida on state charges, one of which involved soliciting sex for pay from an underage girl.

"In 2008, shortly after taking office as President, Drew G. Faust was asked to consider a new gift from Epstein," Lopez wrote in a letter to Bacow.

"Though she had not heard of him at the time, after she was briefed on the nature of the allegations against him, she determined that Harvard should no longer accept gifts from him."

The largest single gift made by Epstein, one for $6.5 million in 2003, "established Harvard's Program for Evolutionary Dynamics," led by  Nowak, the report said.

"Epstein's $6.5 million gift to PED enabled Harvard and Professor Nowak to create and pay for a separate research facility for PED in a Harvard Square office building leased from a private owner," according to the report. 

The report also said that "it is likely that he visited PED's offices more than 40 times between 2010 and 2018, including visits as recently as October 2018."

"His visits ended after a number of PED researchers complained to Professor Nowak about Epstein's con-tinuing relationship with PED," according to the report overseen by Lopez.

But before that, the report said, "In 2013, Epstein's publicist sought to burnish Epstein's reputation by asking PED to post on PED's Harvard website links to Epstein's foundations' websites, which included both flattering descriptions of Epstein as a science philanthropist and false claims about the level of support he provided to Harvard."

"In 2014, Epstein's publicist asked Professor Nowak to feature Epstein in a full page on PED's Harvard website. Professor Nowak approved each of these requests," the report said.

"We found no evidence that University or FAS leadership knew about these postings.. PED removed the Epstein page from its website after PED and Harvard received complaints in 2014 from a sexual assault survivor's group. These findings also raise questions about possible violations of Harvard policies."

The report, found that even after his conviction and subsequent 13-month stint in jail, "Some members of the Harvard community continued their relationships with Epstein," Lopez noted in a letter to Bacow released Friday.

Lopez also wrote, "In 2013, several faculty members requested that Harvard reconsider accepting donations from Epstein."

"That request was put before then-Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Michael D. Smith, who, after being briefed about Epstein, reached the same conclusion as President Faust, and denied the request to entertain the possibility of gifts from Epstein," Lopez wrote.

"In his interview, Dean Smith explained that he concluded at the time that it would be inconsistent with Harvard's commitment to address sexual assault and harassment at our institution to accept gifts from Epstein," Lopez wrote.

Harvard's endowment last year was valued at more than $40 billion, making it the largest endowment of any university in the United States.

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NBC archive footage shows Trump partying with Jeffrey Epstein in 1992

On the heels of Epstein's suicide, Bacow in September said, "Jeffrey Epstein's crimes were repulsive and reprehensible."

"I profoundly regret Harvard's past association with him. Conduct such as his has no place in our society," Bacow said at the time.

Harvard said in mid-April that it would not "seek or accept" $8.6 million allocated to the school by a federal coronavirus package after Trump criticized the award.

"Harvard did not apply for this support, nor has it requested, received or accessed these funds," the university said in a statement.