JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon claims he had never heard of Epstein before arrest

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon has said in a court deposition that he did not recall ever hearing about convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein or his sexual abuse crimes against teenage girls until the financier was arrested in 2019, countering claims that the bank ignored signs of malfeasance, including Epstein’s large monthly cash withdrawals.

Related: Barclays CEO Jes Staley contradicts JP Morgan chief’s claim they never discussed Epstein

In transcripts of the deposition obtained by the Guardian, Dimon was asked if he had ever heard the name Jeffrey Epstein before the arrest. Dimon responded: “Not that I recall.” He said he first heard about Epstein “when the story blew wide open. He was arrested, and all the stories came out about all the people he knows. And the reason I remember that is I was surprised that I didn’t know about it before.”

The testimony, given during a deposition recorded last week in New York as part of a claim by Epstein victims and the US Virgin Islands that JP Morgan is financially liable for Epstein’s abuse of girls and women because it continued to do business with him for at least six years after he was first charged with sex crimes in Florida.

JP Morgan denies the claims and has sued Jes Staley, a former senior executive at the bank and later Barclays CEO, saying he hid Epstein’s crimes to keep Epstein as a client. JP Morgan has also filed a counter-claim against the US Virgin Islands’ government claiming that the sex trafficker maintained a “quid pro quo relationship” with some of the territory’s highest officials over two decades.

Those claims center on Cecile deJongh, wife of former US Virgin Islands’ governor John deJongh, who JP Morgan says facilitated Epstein’s abuse of women and girls by helping him influence local politicians, dodge the territory’s sex offender laws and obtain work and visas for his victims.

In the 416-page deposition, Dimon said that an email from Epstein’s office that suggested he was scheduled to meet with Epstein and Staley at Epstein’s townhouse was inaccurate.

“I have never had an appointment with Jeff Epstein. I’ve never met Jeff Epstein. I never knew Jeff Epstein. I never went to Jeff Epstein’s house. I never had a meal with Jeff Epstein. I have no idea what they’re referring to here,” Dimon said.

“I don’t think Jeff Epstein ever arranged for me to meet with anybody, to my knowledge,” he added.

But Dimon said he regretted that the bank, now the world’s largest in terms of assets, had continued to do business with Epstein. “After he pleaded guilty to the crime he pleaded guilty to, he – we unfortunately continued to bank him, yes,” Dimon said, according to the deposition.

Dimon painted a picture in which senior executives at the bank had not discussed one of the bank’s most problematic clients and suggested that responsibility for “exiting” Epstein lay with the bank’s general counsel, Steve Cutler. Cutler had warned in a 2011 email that Epstein “is not an honorable person in any way. He should not be a client.”

JP Morgan’s asset management chief, Mary Erdoes, said in an earlier deposition that she had only met Epstein twice. The second of those was to dismiss Epstein after Staley had left the bank. Dimon also said he thought Cutler and Erdoes were “trying to do the right thing”.

Staley’s deposition has not been taken by plaintiffs in the case but could come as soon as next week. He has claimed in legal papers that he spoke with Dimon about keeping Epstein as a client.

Dimon was asked that if had known in 2010 that Epstein was a sex trafficker and client of the bank, withdrawing large amounts of cash each month between 1998 and 2013, would he and the general counsel have acted to drop Epstein. “I think everyone involved, had they known then what is known today, including me, would have taken that position,” he said.

In one exchange, Dimon was asked if he knew that a transfer of funds from Epstein’s account to Ghislaine Maxwell, who also banked with JP Morgan, were used to purchase a helicopter to transport girls to his private island, Dimon responded: “I didn’t know then, and I don’t really know now.”

In response to Dimon’s deposition, Brad Edwards, lawyer for the unnamed victim, or “Jane Doe”, in the USVI suit said it had become “clear” that Epstein could not have run his sex trafficking operation without the help of JP Morgan.

“Conveniently, each banker points a finger at the other, claiming this hot potato was someone else’s fault. Regardless how unbelievable the finger-pointing or purported lack of knowledge is, responsibility rests with the bank,” Edwards said.