JPMorgan JPM -0.59%
Chase & Co. sued former executive Jes Staley over his ties to Jeffrey Epstein, identifying Mr. Staley as the “powerful finance executive” charged with assault in a lawsuit against the bank.
Late last year, an unnamed woman alleged that JPMorgan aided Epstein’s sex trafficking business by getting him to stay a customer and helping him send money to the deceased financier’s victims.
The woman said in her lawsuit against the bank that a friend of Epstein’s had aggressively sexually assaulted her, but said she was afraid to publicly identify him. JPMorgan Wednesday said that friend was Mr. Staley.
JPMorgan’s lawsuit against Mr. Staley adds him to the woman’s lawsuit and another Epstein-related case brought by the U.S. Virgin Islands. The legal maneuver allows the bank to argue that Mr Staley should pay damages if the bank is held responsible.
A lawyer for Mr Staley declined to comment.
Mr Staley has maintained that he was friends with Epstein but was never aware of his alleged crimes.
“I thought I knew him well and I didn’t,” Mr. Staley said in early 2020. “In hindsight, with what we all know now, I deeply regret being in a relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. ”
JPMorgan’s move to try to shift focus to Mr. Staley marks a break with a former executive who had risen to the top of the bank and was once considered a possible successor to CEO Jamie Dimon.
Mr. Staley developed a relationship with Epstein when he led JPMorgan’s wealth management unit, which includes the company’s focus on wealthy clients.
After leaving JPMorgan in 2013, Mr. Staley CEO of British banking giant Barclays PLC. He resigned in November 2021 amid a UK regulatory investigation into whether the bank had been truthful about his relationship with Epstein, who was accused of sex trafficking before his apparent suicide in 2019.
The lawsuits have described Mr. Staley’s communications with Epstein as evidence that JPMorgan should have known about their relationship. Emails between the two men showed a close connection, according to court documents, and included photos of young women in seductive poses, according to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Mr. Staley had “affirmatively misrepresented the true facts of his and Epstein’s personal interactions,” the bench said in court documents, and “repeatedly provided misleading information” about Epstein’s character and behavior.
“Prosecutors have made troubling allegations about the conduct of our former employee Jes Staley, and if true, he should be held accountable for his actions,” a JPMorgan spokeswoman said Wednesday. “If these allegations against Staley are true, he has breached this duty by putting his own personal interests ahead of the company’s.”
Brad Edwards, one of the attorneys who represented the woman in the civil suit against JPMorgan, said the filing “is a damning admission of wrongdoing by JPMorgan.”
Mr. Dimon should be forced to answer questions about how he supervised Mr. Staley, Mr. Edwards said. JPMorgan has resisted a request to impeach Mr. Dimon in the case.
The bank has been trying to get the lawsuits dismissed, saying it was unaware of Epstein’s alleged crimes and cannot be held liable.
The U.S. Virgin Islands lawsuit alleges that Mr. Staley vouched for Epstein as a JPMorgan client when internal compliance officers raised questions. The bank’s compliance team repeatedly asked for reassurance after Epstein was first indicted on sex crime charges in 2006, when he pleaded guilty to those charges in 2008, and in later years as news reports of similar behavior continued to surface, according to the court documents. .
JPMorgan has said it shut down Epstein’s accounts in 2013, shortly after Mr. Staley left the bank. Epstein died in prison in 2019 awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking charges.
Write to David Benoit at David.Benoit@wsj.com and Khadeeja Safdar at email@example.com
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