NEW YORK (AP) — A fund set up to provide money to victims of financier Jeffrey Epstein announced Monday that it has largely completed its work after agreeing to deliver nearly $125 million to over 135 individuals.
The announcement came from Jordana Feldman, the administrator of the Epstein Victims Compensation Program, which since late June of last year has operated independently of Epstein’s estate.
Epstein, 66, killed himself in August 2019 in a Manhattan lockup a month after his arrest on sex trafficking charges. Dozens of women have alleged that Epstein for decades had sexually abused teenage girls and women, often by turning mansion massages into sexual assaults.
Feldman said 92 percent of 150 eligible applicants accepted what was offered by the fund, which received 225 claims, far more than the roughly 100 or so claims that were expected based on the number of women who had sued and spoken to lawyers.
Payouts were generally processed and paid within two to three months after claimants shared their experiences in confidential meetings, according to a release from the fund.
Feldman, who declined to provide demographics on claimants, said she met individually with over 200 fund applicants and tried to put them at ease at the outset by saying nothing would be recorded, leading them to “kind of relax their shoulders a little bit.”
“I do think that there was a sense of comfort knowing that this was a safe space to share their stories. And I think that the process was exhausting but empowering for many of these victims. Empowerment in having come forward and reclaiming a sense of control and ownership in their own narrative,” she said.
Feldman said she also did not record the meetings because she didn’t want to create an extra record of the meetings, which occurred as criminal probes continue into Epstein and those who might have aided his sex crimes since the 1990s. His ex-girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges and awaits a November trial in Manhattan federal court.
Though the meetings were scheduled for one hour, some went much longer, Feldman said.
“It was for many of the victims the first time they told their stories from the beginning,” she said.
The fund was designed as an alternative to lawsuits, which can take years to proceed to a payout.
Awards were not formulaic but instead resulted from a study of numerous factors, including the victim’s age, severity of abuse, frequency and impact of abuse, the extent of collaboration and the general credibility of the claim, Feldman said.
Brad Edwards, a Florida attorney who had several dozens clients participate in the process, called the claim program “largely successful.”
“The majority of victims accepted the determination of the administrators, settled their cases, and were happy to get through this process and resume healing,” Edwards said in an email.
He said some victims, though, “felt the determination from the program was inadequate and will be litigating their claims.”
The fund was established with help from Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw compensation funds for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and of clergy sex abuse within New York’s Roman Catholic archdiocese. Feldman said she worked for a decade on the 9-11 compensation fund.
The payouts were financed with money from Epstein’s estate, including expenses of $8 million to $9 million, Feldman said.