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MIT review cites big 'mistakes' in taking Epstein donations

Some top administrators "made significant mistakes of judgment in deciding to accept Epstein’s post-conviction donations," the review concluded.
Image: Jeffrey Epstein appears in court in West Palm Beach, Florida, in 2008.
Jeffrey Epstein appears in court in West Palm Beach, Florida, in 2008.Uma Sanghvi / Palm Beach Post via Reuters file

An internal review of Jeffrey Epstein's donations to MIT concluded that a handful of top administrators at the storied institute knew about the money and "made significant mistakes of judgment in deciding to accept Epstein’s post-conviction donations."

A report laying out the review's findings was released Friday. The inquiry was conducted by the law firm Goodwin Procter at the behest of MIT.

The review discovered Epstein donated $850,000 between 2002 and 2017 to the Cambridge, Mass., institution. That's separate from $800,000 in donations reported in August 2019. The financier, who died by suicide Aug. 10 while being held in a New York City jail, was convicted in 2008 of procuring a person under 18 for prostitution and felony solicitation of prostitution. He had to register as a sex offender in Florida following his conviction.

In July, he was arrested in New York on federal allegations of sex trafficking.

The MIT review found that all but $100,000 of Epstein's donations came after the 2008 conviction. Included among the nine post-conviction donations he made was $525,000 to MIT's Media Lab and $225,000 to mechanical engineering Prof. Seth Lloyd, according to Friday's report.

Lloyd was placed on administrative leave Friday. According to the report he failed to inform the school that Epstein twice donated cash to support his research. The professor also received a $60,000 gift from Epstein in the mid-'00s, the review found.

The Media Lab's director, Joichi Ito, resigned in September after The New Yorker magazine reported that, while he worked to connect Epstein's money to the institute, he facilitated Epstein visits to MIT and worked to keep the sex offender's philanthropy secret.

Epstein visited the institute nine times between 2013 and 2017, but MIT's senior administrators didn't know about it, according to a summary of findings in the investigative report.

NBC News has reached out to Lloyd and Ito for comment. Lloyd, Ito and MIT President L. Rafael Reif have all previously apologized to victim’s of Epstein’s abuse, according to the summary, which added that they “have pledged to donate amounts matching their Epstein funding to charities that benefit the survivors of sexual abuse."

MIT's own inquiry found that R. Gregory Morgan, former MIT vice president and general counsel, Jeffrey Newton, former vice president for resource development, and Israel Ruiz, executive vice president and treasurer, knew about a 2013 Epstein gift to the media lab.

And, the report says, they knew Epstein was a convicted sex offender.

But the trio allowed the acceptance of subsequent Epstein cash under what a summary describes as an "informal framework" that did not violate policy because there was no clear policy, according to the report.

"I am confident that the MIT leadership will work with the MIT community to reflect on this episode and create an effective and successful path forward that reflects the values and goals of this great Institution," Ruiz said in a statement.

NBC News was unable to reach Morgan and Newton.

The administrators insisted that the donations "remain relatively small and unpublicized, so that they could not be used by Epstein to launder or ‘whitewash’ his reputation or to gain influence at MIT," the report states.

"Certain Senior Team members, however, made significant mistakes of judgment in deciding to accept Epstein’s post-conviction donations," the review found.

They should have considered if taking the money was consistent with MIT's core values, how it might impact the MIT community, and whether or not accepting donations from an anonymous giver was appropriate, according to the report.

The review concluded there was no evidence Reif was aware of the Epstein donations.

While Epstein had claimed to have arranged $7 million in total donations to MIT from Bill Gates and Leon Black, the co-founder of Apollo Global Management, the report says there's no evidence to support that claim.

"We did not find any evidence that the money donated by Gates or Black actually was Epstein’s money — that is, there is no evidence that Gates and Black acted to 'launder' Epstein’s money," the report states.

The report recommends that MIT establish a clear policy on giving, support whistleblowers, and help the Media Lab get over the chapter by encouraging a "fresh start," according to a summary.