NEW YORK—Deutsche Bank AG admitted it made a “critical mistake” taking on the registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein as a client, and agreed to pay a $150 million fine to settle New York charges over its dealings with the late financier and two other banks.
Tuesday’s settlement with the New York State Department of Financial Services (pdf) is the first regulatory enforcement action against a bank related to Epstein, who committed suicide last August in a Manhattan jail, a month after his arrest for allegedly sexually exploiting dozens of girls and women.
“For years, Mr. Epstein’s criminal, abusive behavior was widely known, yet big institutions continued to excuse that history and lend their credibility or services for financial gain,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
New York faulted Deutsche Bank’s “significant compliance failures” in its dealings with Epstein, as well as with Danske Bank’s Estonia branch, which is embroiled in a money laundering scandal, and the Federal Bank of the Middle East.
It said Deutsche Bank considered Epstein “high-risk” and knew of his history of sex trafficking and abuse, including his 2007 guilty plea to state prostitution charges, yet processed hundreds of transactions “obviously implicated” by his past.
These included payments to alleged accomplices, lawyers, victims, Russian models, and women with Eastern European surnames.
Epstein was a Deutsche Bank client from August 2013 to December 2018, when the relationship ended following additional negative press about his misconduct.
The New York settlement reflected Deutsche Bank’s cooperation over several years.
“Onboarding (Epstein) as a client in 2013 was a critical mistake and should never have happened,” Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Christian Sewing told staff in a memo on Tuesday.
The bank also acknowledged deficiencies in its monitoring of Danske Estonia and FBME.
“We all have to help ensure that this kind of thing does not happen again,” Sewing said.
By Jonathan Stempel