Leon Black, the billionaire collector and trustee at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), will pay $62.5m to the US Virgin Islands in a settlement to exempt him from legal claims related to sex-trafficking operations run by Jeffrey Epstein. News of the deal was first reported by The New York Times on 21 July, following the paper’s request for public records from the government of the Virgin Islands.
The agreement was reached in January, after the Virgin Islands’ three-year investigation into Epstein’s activities at his properties on two private islands there. The settlement document notes how Black, who had long-standing social and business relationships with Epstein, paid his friend $158m for tax and estate-planning services after Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting prostitution from a teenage girl.
A spokesperson told the Times that Black “engaged and made payments to Jeffrey Epstein for legitimate financial advisory services, which, based on everything now known, he very much regrets. Consistent with settlements of other major US banks, Mr. Black resolved the USVI’s potential claims arising out of the unintended consequences of those payments. There is no suggestion in the USVI settlement that Mr. Black was aware of or participated in any misconduct.”
Black, a major MoMA benefactor, stepped down from his position as board chairman in 2021 amid the fallout from revelations of his ties to the convicted sex offender, the same year he withdrew from his roles as chairman and chief executive of private equity firm Apollo Global Management. (Last March, a New York court upheld the dismissal of a racketeering lawsuit Black had brought against his former employer, claiming he had been pushed out.) In 2022, he faced allegations of raping a woman at Epstein’s townhouse in Manhattan; a New York state judge dismissed the federal lawsuit in May.
Epstein died by suicide in 2019 while in federal custody on sex-trafficking charges. Employee misconduct and negligence at the New York facility led to his death, the Department of Justice concluded in June.
The Virgin Islands also sued JPMorgan Chase late last year, alleging that the company was complicit in its former client’s crimes and benefited financially from the sex-trafficking operation. Some of the settlement money, the Times reported, will go toward mental health programmes and efforts to combat sex trafficking in the Virgin Islands.