Fund for Jeffrey Epstein victims short of cash, pauses payout offers

FILE PHOTO: U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' sex offender registry March 28, 2017 and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019.  New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Handout via REUTERS.

(Reuters)


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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The fund set up to compensate victims of Jeffrey Epstein's sexual abuses is short of cash.

The Epstein Victims' Compensation Program said on Thursday it will stop offering payouts to victims through at least March 25, citing uncertainty about the liquidity of assets from the disgraced financier's estate that fund the payouts.

Jordana Feldman, the fund's administrator, said she regretted the suspension, but it was necessary to protect the rights of Epstein accusers whose claims have not been resolved.

"Issuing a compensation offer that cannot be timely and fully funded and paid, consistent with the way the Program has operated to date, would compromise claimants' interests and the guiding principles of the program," Feldman said in a statement.

Feldman worked for many years on a compensation fund for Sept. 11, 2001 attack victims.

The Epstein compensation program has received more than 150 claims since being created last June, and paid out more than $50 million. Victims have until Feb. 8 to register and March 25 to file claims.

Epstein signed his will on Aug. 8, 2019, two days before killing himself in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. His estate's executors have since been selling assets to pay victims.

Once valued at around $630 million, the estate ended December with approximately $240 million of assets.

According to a statement provided by the executors' lawyers, the "great bulk" of the remaining assets - including homes, aircraft and private investments - are illiquid, and the coronavirus pandemic has hamstrung efforts to sell them.

It also said the estate has spent heavily defending against civil litigation, including "fraudulent" ownership claims for Epstein's home in Palm Beach, Florida.

The executors nonetheless have a "full expectation" the compensation program will soon return to normal, the statement said.

Payouts began after Denise George, attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Epstein also had a home, received assurances that Epstein's accusers would be treated fairly.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)

© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021

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Jonathan Stempel

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