Women who accused Jeffrey Epstein of sexually assaulting them can begin filing claims and collecting compensation from his estate, valued at more than $600 million.
The compensation fund opened Thursday after months of back-and-forth between the estate and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Epstein owned property and took many of the girls and young women he was accused of attacking. The final hurdle was cleared after the estate agreed to set aside funds for future claims, from the Virgin Islands or elsewhere, and strengthened rules to protect the women’s rights and privacy.
The program “provides the victims who were sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein an opportunity to resolve their claims outside of court, beyond the glare of public proceedings and without the cost and confrontation of litigation,” Jordana Feldman, the fund’s administrator, said at a news conference. She said no amount of money could undo their suffering but that the confidential program offered “some measure of justice and validation.”
Among the details she cited: There is no cap on claims, and claimants who, as teens, recruited other girls to Epstein’s circle under duress may be considered.
The latter provision reflects “what we had heard and learned from many of the victims’ lawyers,” Feldman said, “which was that recruitment web of girls telling their friends, ‘You know, hey, you can make some money.’”
Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise George had blocked an earlier proposal by Epstein’s estate, questioning its demand that those who received money from the fund agree to a broad liability waiver. An accord was reached after the estate agreed not to use information the victims provided to defend itself against any other claims that might be filed.
Epstein enjoyed assets spanning at least two continents, including a private island and boatyard in the Virgin Islands, palatial homes in Florida, New York and Paris, and a sprawling ranch in New Mexico. He was listed as the owner of at least half a dozen companies. Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail last August after his arrest on federal sex-trafficking charges. At the time of his death, he also had cars, yachts and airplanes registered in his name.
Those applying to the compensation program could collect payouts in the millions of dollars from the estate, which has been valued at about $630 million. The program won’t limit an accuser’s ability to share information with law enforcement or anyone else, Feldman said. The program can be accessed by a website, and claims can be made through March 25, 2021.
Feldman described it as an alternative to litigation that doesn’t have the barriers of a civil claim, such as a statute of limitations or prior settlements.
The program, which worked with George and lawyers representing more than 70 accusers, was designed by Feldman, Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros. Feinberg and Feldman oversaw the compensation fund for people killed in the September 2001 terrorist attacks. Feinberg and Biros designed and administered a fund for sexual abuse claims against the Catholic Church.
More than three dozen women have filed lawsuits in federal and state courts seeking damages from Epstein’s estate. Lawyers for many of the women have said in court filings that their clients would consider participating in a compensation fund if it protected their privacy and was administered fairly.