BOSTON (AP) — Disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein donated more than $700,000 to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and visited campus at least nine times after being convicted of sex crimes in 2008, according to new findings from a law firm hired to investigate Epstein’s ties with the elite school.
The report finds that some senior leaders at MIT approved Epstein’s donations but demanded that they be kept out of the public spotlight in an attempt to protect the school’s reputation. Many of the donations came through Epstein’s foundations and were recorded as anonymous gifts.
Still, the report concluded that MIT’s leaders violated no laws or school policies in accepting gifts from a convicted sex offender. At the time, the school had no policy on accepting controversial gifts. The school says it will now develop one.
MIT President L. Rafael Reif called the findings “a sharp reminder of human fallibility and its consequences.”
“An enduring MIT value is the willingness to face hard facts, and as community voices have made clear, this situation demands openness and transparency,” Reif wrote in a campus letter.
In total, investigators found that Epstein donated $850,000 to MIT between 2002 and 2017. Nearly all of it went to the MIT Media Lab and to Seth Lloyd, a mechanical engineering professor.
Lloyd, who has previously apologized, was placed on administrative leave on Friday over findings that he “purposefully failed to inform MIT” of about $100,000 he accepted from Epstein in 2012. Lloyd did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Former Media Lab director Joi Ito resigned last year amid uproar over his ties to Epstein.
In August, Reif announced MIT would donate an amount equal to its donations from Epstein to a charity that supports victims of sexual violence.
The donations were approved by Jeffrey Newton, vice president for Resource Development; R. Gregory Morgan, senior vice president; and Israel Ruiz, executive vice president and treasurer. Newton and Morgan have retired and Ruiz “has expressed deep regret, which we believe is sincere, for what he believes was a collective and continued error of judgment,” the report found.
Epstein, 66, killed himself in his New York City prison cell in August after he was arrested on sex trafficking charges. The wealthy financier had pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing girls as young as 14 and young women in New York and Florida in the early 2000s. In lawsuits, women say the abuse spanned decades.
Investigators found that Epstein reached out to Lloyd as he tried to rehabilitate his reputation following his 2008 conviction of sex crimes in Florida. The report says Epstein was disappointed that other universities were rejecting his money and sent an email to Lloyd as a test. In an email, he told Lloyd, “im going to give you two 50k tranches to see if the line jingles.”
Although the source of that funding was kept hidden from MIT leaders, at least three senior leaders became aware of donations that Epstein made to the Media Lab in 2013, the report said. They debated whether to return the money but ultimately approved it, under the condition that it be kept anonymous.
Epstein’s last donation to the school was $25,000 to the Media Lab, given in December 2017.
Investigators found that the leaders were unaware of Epstein’s regular visits to campus, which often came at the invitation of Ito. Epstein visited campus as recently as April 2017, the report said, despite objections from some staff members at the Media Lab. Some secretly called him “Voldemort,” investigators discovered, and some felt uncomfortable when he arrived with female assistants in their 20s.
In his campus letter, Reif said MIT will create a process to guide decisions on controversial donors and will establish guidelines “to keep the MIT community safe from visitors who pose a direct threat.”
“As all of you demonstrated, there is a great deal that is right with MIT,” Reif wrote. “We must fix what needs fixing and improve what needs improving. And we must make room for many more voices and perspectives.”