Compensation fund for Jeffrey Epstein victims opens; more than 100 women expected to file claims

Sarah Fitzpatrick and Adiel Kaplan

The administrator of a fund for victims of sexual abuse by disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, which opened for claims Thursday, said that more than 100 victims or their attorneys have already been in touch and that many more will likely file claims soon.

The Epstein Victims' Compensation Fund will pay victims out of the financier's estate, estimated at $630 million.

The program was developed by the Epstein estate in consultation with victims' attorneys and the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Epstein had a lavish home, to limit litigation against the estate and avoid court cases that could drag on for years.

Claims, which will be processed on a rolling basis, could range from "thousands to millions of dollars" for each victim, according to program administrator Jordana Feldman, who previously was deputy special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. More than 100 victims had been sent claims packets by late Thursday.

Representatives of Epstein's estate expect to be able to pay all claims. It is not yet clear how long claims will take to process.

The program, designed over the past several months by Feldman and other claims administration experts, is being run independently from Epstein's estate. The filing period will run through March 25, although some funding is set aside for future claims.

"This Program provides victims of Jeffrey Epstein the opportunity to be heard outside the glare of public courtroom proceedings, and to receive acknowledgment by an independent third party as to the legitimacy of their experience and the long-term suffering it has wrought," Feldman said.

Accepting money from the fund means victims cannot sue the estate separately, but it does not prevent them from sharing information with law enforcement, participating in criminal investigations or sharing their stories publicly.

Epstein, 66, was arrested in July 2019 on charges of sexually abusing and trafficking dozens of young girls in the early 2000s. Epstein, whose social circle once included Prince Andrew, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, pleaded not guilty. He died by suicide inside a cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in August days after a judge denied his request to await trial at his Manhattan mansion.

Several women had already filed civil suits by the time of his death. Dozens of women have since sued Epstein's estate.

The program's launch was delayed by negotiations over a broad liability release proposed by the Epstein estate that would apply to any victim who received money from the program. Feldman said Thursday that under the terms of the program, victims will be required to release "any related individuals who were employed by Epstein or engaged by his entities" from future legal liability.

Feldman said the release allows victims to pursue civil litigation against people who were not Epstein employees and to whom the victims were alleged to have been sexually trafficked.

It is unclear whether Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein's longtime associate, will be classified as an employee under the plan and therefore covered by the liability release. The administrators said the designation is an issue for Epstein's estate, although Feldman said, "It's my understanding the estate intends to include [Maxwell] as a former employee."

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Multiple women have alleged that Maxwell abetted Epstein's sexual abuse of young women and girls for decades. Maxwell's attorneys have acknowledged in recent court filings that she could be questioned as part of the Southern District of New York's criminal investigation into Epstein's "co-conspirators."

Maxwell, who has not been charged with a crime, has previously denied in a court deposition having known about or played any role in Epstein's abuse.