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MIT investigation reveals Epstein-related loophole

Jeffrey Epstein photo illustration
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

"Swap donations with someone else’s foundation." That was a suggestion from the then-director of the MIT Media Lab, Joi Ito — his proposed solution to the problem of accepting donations from convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Why it matters: Ito's proposed solution seems to have worked. Epstein took credit for millions of donations to the Media Lab from Bill Gates and Leon Black — and even after a four-month investigation by law firm Goodwin Procter, there have been no findings that anything was amiss with any of those donations.

Driving the news: MIT has released an unredacted version of the 61-page Goodwin Procter report into Epstein's donations to the university.

  • The report recounts a 2013 conversation in which Ito suggested the swapped-donations strategy as a means to conceal the origin of Epstein money.
  • The following year, Epstein took credit for a $2 million donation from Bill Gates and a $5 million donation from Leon Black, the co-founder of Apollo Global Management.

Gates denied to Goodwin Procter that his donation had anything to do with Epstein, while Black refused to talk to the law firm.

  • "We were unable to connect with representatives of Mr Black," Goodwin Procter lead investigator Roberto Braceras tells Axios.
  • Goodwin Procter managed to find no evidence that the Gates and Black donations were made at Epstein's behest, or that they represented Epstein money laundered via the billionaires.

On Friday, MIT announced that it had placed a mechanical engineering professor, Seth Lloyd, on paid administrative leave following the Goodwin Procter review, as Axios reported.

My thought bubble: MIT is currently putting together "a clear and comprehensive gift policy" and "a process to properly vet donors". But if the Leon Black donations were indeed Epstein-related — and there's no evidence to suggest that they weren't — the results of this investigation suggest that Epstein and Ito have already demonstrated an easy way to circumvent any such policies.

Go deeper: Exclusive: MIT and Jeffrey Epstein's billionaire enablers