(Bloomberg) -- By the time Jeffrey Epstein died, the rich and powerful he’d courted for decades had finally abandoned him.
But his apparent suicide in a Manhattan jail cell -- a grisly end to a story of sexual abuse and financial intrigue -- leaves his former circle confronting a sober reality. Jeffrey Epstein is dead. The scandal isn’t.
The implications have only begun to reverberate as the investigations grind on. Now that the financier will never get his day in court, where he may have set to rest some of the fervent speculation, it’s open season for the gossips and conspiracy theorists.
“Mr. Epstein’s death gives license for sensationalizing the horrible,” said Erik Gordon, a lawyer and business professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “People who merely socialized or did business with him without knowing about the alleged conduct are stuck with having their name linked with his.”
Those who rubbed elbows with Epstein, as well as banks that handled his millions well after he’d first been accusing of preying on teenage girls, had already been struggling to contain the damage.
Les Wexner, the mogul behind Victoria’s Secret who had a decades long business association with Epstein, has twice issued statements distancing himself from his former consigliere, first to his employees at L Brands and then to his Wexner Foundation. Wexner, who last week said Epstein had “misappropriated vast sums of money,” has been providing authorities information about Epstein’s role, according to the Wall Street Journal. A Wexner spokesman declined to comment.
To his victims, Epstein was a monster, a predator who lured girls as young as 14 to his opulent homes and private island. To billionaires like Wexner and Leon Black, Epstein was, for years, a trusted financial adviser. To JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s private banking unit, once led by Jes Staley, Epstein was a valuable contact who brought in lucrative clients. To Glenn Dubin, he was an investor and a friend.
Epstein was also a client of Deutsche Bank AG, who cut ties with him this year. An internal review had concluded it appeared Epstein was using his accounts for sex trafficking and possibly other illegal activity, according to the New York Times. Troy Gravitt, a spokesman for the bank, said it was examining its relationship with Epstein and “absolutely committed to cooperating with all relevant authorities.”
There has been no suggestion on the part of federal authorities of any wrongdoing by the people with whom Epstein did business. All have said in recent weeks that they were unaware of what Wexner described in the letter to his foundation as “the unthinkable allegations” Epstein was facing.
Black has reiterated that his relationship with Epstein didn’t touch Apollo Global Management. Staley cut ties to Epstein in 2015, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, months before he became head of Barclays Plc. A spokesman for JPMorgan has declined to comment. The bank has been poring over their records in recent weeks to figure out more about its relationship with Epstein, a person familiar with the situation said.
Epstein died a month after his arrest on charges that he sexually abused and exploited dozens of girls. He had a decade earlier served time in county jail in Palm Beach on similar charges, in a case involving a secretive plea deal: Alexander Acosta, the U.S. attorney at the time in Florida, resigned as President Donald Trump’s labor secretary last month under pressure from the taint of that case.
That Epstein won’t stand trial is deeply disappointing for his accusers, who will be unable to seek justice from him directly. Their lawyers said their clients will pursue civil cases against his estate, while prosecutors signaled there could be new criminal charges forthcoming. “Our investigation of the conduct charged in the Indictment -- which included a conspiracy count -- remains ongoing,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.
In Paris, prosecutors are considering opening a formal probe into Epstein after French ministers said the U.S. sex-trafficking case indicated links to France.
Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center at about 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 10, a day after a federal appeals court made public hundreds of pages of documents in a civil case that revealed lurid new details about how he allegedly lured his young victims and who may have helped him.
In one of the unsealed depositions, an Epstein accuser said she was sent by Epstein and his friend Ghislaine Maxwell to have sex with former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell and money manager Dubin. All three have denied the claims.
A spokeswoman for Dubin said he had no comment on Epstein’s death. Maxwell couldn’t be reached for comment, but she has over the years denied involvement with Epstein’s alleged sexual abuse of underage girls.
The deposition by Virginia Giuffre, who claims she was a “sex slave” for Epstein from 2000 to 2002, expands on allegations she has made in court filings and interviews in which she has said she was forced to have sex with the U.K.’s Prince Andrew and Harvard University law professor Alan Dershowitz. Both have denied the allegations.
Epstein may carry to his grave secrets of his conduct, the escapades of his wealthy friends and the mysteries of his financial dealings. But “I don’t think anyone should expect that this will quietly disappear,” said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who teaches law at Loyola Law School. “For people whose names have been floated with regards to this investigation, things are about to get even more intense.”
--With assistance from David Voreacos, Patricia Hurtado, Erik Larson and Michelle F. Davis.
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