Jes Staley, CEO of Barclays

Justin Solomon | CNBC

JPMorgan Chase sued its former investment banking chief Jes Staley over his ties to disgraced former financier Jeffrey Epstein, alleging that Staley is to blame for any legal fallout from a pair of lawsuits against the bank.

The company on Wednesday filed a suit against Staley that sought to claw back his last eight years of pay at JPMorgan and make him responsible for potential payouts in lawsuits faced by the New York-based bank. The compensation alone amounts to more than $80 million.

The legal maneuver is the latest twist in cases that have embroiled the biggest U.S. bank by assets. Late last year, the U.S. Virgin Islands and a group of alleged Epstein victims sued the bank, accusing it of facilitating the sex offender’s crimes. JPMorgan kept Epstein as a private wealth client until 2013, in part because Staley vouched for him, despite internal concerns after Epstein’s 2008 conviction on sex crimes.

As pressure on the bank increased, JPMorgan went from defending its former executive in recent weeks to shifting the blame for any Epstein fallout to him.

One of the internal emails released in the recent lawsuits mentioned a review of the Epstein account expected to be done by JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon; the bank said it hadn’t seen evidence the review happened. Plaintiffs have sought to question Dimon in the case, an effort the bank is resisting.

“To the extent that Staley knew of, participated in, or witnessed sexual abuse associated with Epstein and did not report it to, or actively concealed it from JPMorgan,” it is Staley, and not the bank, who is responsible for injuries Epstein caused, JPMorgan said in its Wednesday filing.

‘Powerful exec’

JPMorgan also identified Staley as the “powerful financial executive” accused of sexually assaulting one of Epstein’s alleged victims in one of the suits it faces.

Staley’s attorney, Kathleen Harris of Arnold & Porter, declined to comment. Staley, who left JPMorgan in 2013 and later became CEO of Barclays before stepping down from the London-based bank in 2021, has denied knowledge of Epstein’s crimes. Epstein died by apparent suicide in 2019 while in jail awaiting trial on U.S. sex trafficking charges.

Still, JPMorgan said in the filing that it didn’t admit that the two plaintiffs’ allegations were accurate, and in a statement called the lawsuits “misplaced and without merit.”

“The plaintiffs have made troubling allegations concerning the conduct of our former employee Jes Staley, and if true he should be held responsible for his actions,” a JPMorgan spokeswoman said.

“We expect all of our employees at every level of the firm act with honesty and integrity,” she added. “If these allegations against Staley are true, he violated this duty by putting his own personal interests ahead of the company’s.”

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