AG George: Epstein Estate Compensation Fund Must Protect Victims’ Rights
The Virgin Islands Attorney General’s office reached an agreement in principle for a Victims’ Compensation Program with the Epstein Estate counsel and victims’ counsel on Friday.
The agreement includes safeguards that U.S. Virgin Islands’ Attorney General Denise George insisted be included, according to her office.
With the agreement, Attorney General George will allow the release of a portion of Estate funds for the victims so that the program may
When the Attorney General of the Virgin Islands filed a civil enforcement action under the Virgin Islands Criminally Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act against the Epstein Estate and six other related
companies based in the Virgin Islands in January 2020, the Attorney General’s Office committed to advocate for the women and girls victimized by Epstein in the Virgin Islands while representing the local government’s interest.
Prior to the government’s lawsuit, the Estate filed a motion with the probate court in the Virgin Islands to seek approval for a claims fund to provide an alternative resolution process for numerous victims who filed claims against the Estate.
Upon reviewing the protocol developed by and for the Estate, the Attorney
General raised a number of fundamental concerns about the proposed process, which did not comply with the laws and public policy of the Virgin Islands or fully protect the rights of Epstein’s victims.
The Attorney General’s Office, working closely with Epstein’s victims and their counsel, have now reached an agreement upon the terms of the fund, which include a set of reforms that provide a process that will be more fair, credible, and victim-oriented.
Through the discussions, the Attorney General made clear her support of a compensation fund that would allow victims to avoid the publicity and trauma of a trial and provide them, promptly, with a measure of justice and closure.
The Victim Compensation Fund as it stands now, is a substantial improvement from the original victims’ claim fund proposed by the Estate. Specifically, the victim compensation fund now includes:
• Involvement of victim advocate Marci Hamilton, CEO of Child USA and the country’s preeminent expert and advocate on child sexual abuse issues. This will help ensure that the decisions of the fund administrator are fully informed by and sensitive to the unique experiences and needs of
survivors of trafficking and sexual abuse;
• Dedicated funding to ensure that victims who have not yet come forward or who are not satisfied with the claims process or award can opt-out without sacrificing the chance of a judgment or recovery;
• Protections to ensure that information shared by victims in the claims process is not provided to the Estate and, potentially, used against the claimant or other victims;
• Access to counseling and referral services through the FBI Victim Services program and Child USA; and
• Approval of the program’s administrative budget by the Probate Court and monthly reporting to the Attorney General’s Office and the Probate Court on the number and value of claim awards.
The Attorney General opposed the Estate’s initial demand that, in order to obtain funds under the program, victims be required to sign broad releases to protect other individuals who sexually abused them.
With that broad release in place, the fund could not ensure a fundamentally fair and legally sufficient process for victims who choose to participate.
The parties now agree, and the Program Administrator has committed, that no information obtained solely through the Program by the Estate will be disclosed publicly or used by the Estate in defending itself from any claim, regardless of forum.
Additionally, the Estate has agreed that there is no assertion that the Attorney General’s release of compensation program funds does not act as a waiver of any ability by the Government to object to the Program’s administrative expenses, including those paid with these initial funds.
“I continue to admire the tremendous bravery and strength of the women who have come forward to work with my office on this process,” Attorney General Denise George said. “I’m hopeful the agreement will receive final approval,so these women are able to receive the help they need. My office will forcefully continue its work to hold accountable Epstein’s criminal enterprise through the government’s CICO lawsuit and send a clear message that the USVI is not, and will not, be a safe haven for sex traffickers or sexual abuse.”