A New York federal judge warned JPMorgan Chase that he might find the bank in contempt of court if it does not speed up in producing evidence related to late sexual offender and money manager Jeffrey Epstein for lawsuits by an Epstein accuser and the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands, CNBC has learned.
Judge Jed Rakoff suggested in a notice that JPMorgan and two law firms representing the bank have been slow-walking in turning over documents and other evidence to plaintiffs in the case, under a process known as discovery, according to a source familiar with the notice.
The notice comes two weeks before JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is scheduled to be questioned under oath by plaintiffs’ lawyers for the civil suits, which accuse his bank of enabling and benefiting from Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking of young women.
“The Court also wishes to note that it is concerned that JPMorgan is not moving more expeditiously to produce responsive documents,” Rakoff wrote in the notice, which has yet to appear on the public docket in the case in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
“While the Court appreciates the large volume of discovery that is to be completed in this case, a company as large as JPMorgan and counsel as experienced as WilmerHale and Massey & Gail should be able to move with greater speed than what was revealed by this incident,” the judge wrote, referring to the bank’s two law firms.
“So JPMorgan is put on notice that further expedition will be needed on pain of being put in contempt of Court,” Rakoff wrote.
A JPMorgan spokesperson had no comment on the notice.
Epstein, who died from a jailhouse suicide in 2019 shortly after being arrested on federal child sex trafficking charges, was a long-time customer of the bank until 2013.
The lawsuits allege the bank allowed Epstein to remain a client despite evidence he was using millions of dollars he kept on deposit to facilitate his trafficking of girls and young women to his private island in the Virgin Islands and elsewhere.
Five years before JPMorgan ended its customer relationship with Epstein, he pleaded guilty in Florida state court to soliciting sex for money from an underage girl and served 13 months in jail.
Before his conviction, Epstein was friends with former presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, as well as Prince Andrew of Britain.
JPMorgan denies any wrongdoing, and in its own civil complaint the company has said former bank executive Jes Staley would be legally responsible for any liability arising from its relationship with Epstein.
Staley spent three decades at JPMorgan and had close contact with Epstein — whom he considered a friend — over the years when Epstein was a customer.
Rakoff, in a court ruling published in early May, noted that “plaintiffs allege that Mr. Staley had first-hand knowledge of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-trafficking operation.”
“Mr. Staley is alleged to have visited Epstein’s residences several times while that operation was ongoing, and, during these visits, observed [the Epstein accuser suing JPMorgan] ‘as a sexual trafficking and abuse victim,'” Rakoff noted.
“Plaintiffs further allege that Mr. Staley himself abused some of Epstein’s victims, including” the woman suing the bank, the judge wrote. That woman claims that “‘one of Epstein’s friends’ — whom she later identified as Mr. Staley — ‘used aggressive force in his sexual assault of her and informed [her] that he had Epstein’s permission to do what he wanted to her.'”
In his own court filing, Staley called the accusations against him “baseless,” and he has denied knowledge of Epstein’s sex trafficking.
Staley stepped down as CEO of British banking giant Barclays in late 2021 after an inquiry by a United Kingdom regulator into how he had characterized his relationship with Epstein to Barclays.
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