& Co. sued former executive Jes Staley over his ties to Jeffrey Epstein, identifying Mr. Staley as the “powerful financial executive” accused of sexual assault in a lawsuit against the bank.
Late last year, an unnamed woman alleged that JPMorgan aided Epstein’s sex trafficking by allowing him to remain a client and helping him send money to the late financier’s victims.
The woman, in her lawsuit against the bank, said an Epstein friend sexually assaulted her using aggressive force but said she was afraid to identify him publicly. 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 filed by the U.S. Virgin Islands. The legal maneuver allows the bank to argue Mr. Staley should have to pay damages if the bank is held responsible.
A lawyer for Mr. Staley declined to comment.
Mr. Staley has maintained he was friendly with Epstein but never knew about his alleged crimes.
“I thought I knew him well and I didn’t,” Mr. Staley said in early 2020. “For sure, with hindsight, with what we all know now, I deeply regret having had any relationship with
JPMorgan’s move to try to shift the focus to Mr. Staley represents a break with a former executive who had risen to the top of the bank and was once considered a possible successor to Chief Executive Jamie Dimon.
Mr. Staley developed a relationship with Epstein when he was running JPMorgan’s asset-management unit, which includes its business that caters to rich clients.
After leaving JPMorgan in 2013, Mr. Staley became chief executive of British banking giant Barclays PLC. He resigned in November 2021 amid a U.K. regulatory investigation into whether the bank had been truthful about his relationship with Epstein, who was charged with sex trafficking before his apparent suicide in 2019.
The lawsuits have detailed Mr. Staley’s communications with Epstein as evidence that JPMorgan should have known about their relationship. Emails between the two men showed a close bond, according to court papers, and included what the U.S. Virgin Islands have said were photos of young women in seductive poses.
Mr. Staley had “affirmatively misrepresented the true facts of his and Epstein’s personal interactions,” the bank said in court papers, and “repeatedly provided misleading information” about Epstein’s character and conduct.
“The plaintiffs have made troubling allegations concerning the conduct of our former employee Jes Staley, and if true he should be held responsible for his actions,” a JPMorgan spokeswoman said Wednesday. “If these allegations against Staley are true, he violated this duty by putting his own personal interests ahead of the company’s.”
Brad Edwards, one of the lawyers representing 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 for Mr. Dimon to be deposed in the case.
A judge Thursday ruled the bank must turn over documents from Mr. Dimon through 2019, a wider time frame than the bank had wanted to deliver. There hasn’t been a ruling about whether he will be deposed.
The bank has sought to have the lawsuits dismissed, saying it didn’t know about Epstein’s alleged crimes and can’t be held liable.
The U.S. Virgin Islands suit 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 reassurances after Epstein was first indicted on sex-crime charges in 2006, when he pleaded guilty to those charges in 2008, and in later years when news reports about similar behavior continued to surface, according to the court documents.
JPMorgan has said it cut off Epstein’s accounts in 2013, shortly after Mr. Staley left the bank. Epstein died in jail in 2019 while 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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