By Expat Banker
Jeffrey Epstein’s death robbed the world of a vital revelation. This may well be the reason he was left unattended while suicidal. He was the centre of a brazen ring of predators made up of the very upper echelon of society across two continents.
The truth Epstein lived was that the rich in today’s world operate with the impunity of past emperors. They have no national loyalties and are protected by a phalanx of lawyers, tax advisors, politicians and policeman. We are all at their mercy, yet we only dimly perceive the threat. Perhaps the horror of Epstein’s crimes will force us to finally acknowledge the corrosive effect of income inequality on humanity.
Epstein’s rise from obscurity is an extraordinary parable of the benefits of keeping the rich happy. A college dropout and subsequent schoolteacher at an elite private school, he impressed his pupils’ parents enough to join Bear Stearns.
Wikipedia casually mentions that he went from a trading assistant to a partner in four years. Anyone who has ever worked in an investment bank knows that this is an extraordinary career path. It could only have been possible with the direct intervention of global senior management.
Let us pause to reflect on the hundreds of thousands of young graduates who push their minds and health to the limit to land a junior position at an investment bank. Then think about the tens of thousands more who labour for 16 hours a day to climb one rung of the corporate ladder every two years.
Epstein skipped these levels of hell simply by knowing the right people. His career renders high finance’s meritocratic reputation a sick joke. What was Epstein’s speciality? Using options to help the rich reduce their tax burden. Epstein learned very early the benefits of helping the rich quietly do ugly things.
Epstein’s banking career flamed out as quickly as it began. He was soon dismissed for mysterious disciplinary violations. It amazes me that no record of the reasons of his dismissal survives. Was it financial malfeasance (foreshadowing future abuse of client funds) or more horrendously, covered up sexual assault?
In either case, you would assume the man would slither into infamy with a few millions. But behold, he resurfaces as a large client of the firm. He rebrands himself as a personal financial advisor to only the very wealthy. It is in this phase of his life that Epstein starts teaching a masterclass on the drivers of income inequality.
He set up a firm, Intercontinental Assets Group, which helped rich people recover money stolen from scams and frauds. He had several notable successes, and he gained the confidence to begin claiming to be a US intelligence agent. This gave him a lifetime of soft treatment from US law enforcement authorities.
This umbrella of protection was so consistent that it is now almost forgotten that Epstein was one of the founders of a gigantic Ponzi scheme called Tower Financial. This firm, formed after he was recruited by corporate raider Steven Hoffenberg, stole $ 450 million from investors before it collapsed. Epstein left the company before it imploded and even though court documents claim he was deeply involved in its day-to-day, he was never charged.
It is also unknown if he took any of the proceeds of the theft with him. Anyone with a few brain cells can probably guess he did. Disgusting as his behaviour was, Epstein had not really started to stain (or illuminate) society at large until he entered the world of high fashion.
It is almost cliché that Epstein’s predatory instincts were wetted at Victoria Secret. International fashion, especially the risqué kind, is everyone’s favourite target of moral outrage. Yet this organisation, from its models, stylists, event organisers and prospective employees, was the primary victim of Epstein’s first major sexual crimes.
Once again, his key enabler was an extremely rich man. Epstein befriended Leslie Wexner, Chairman and CEO of L Brands, and insinuated himself as a financial advisor and consigliere. There is a total lack of any evidence of an investment track record. Several investment banks have no record of large trades with Epstein. It is thus reasonable to assume that his services primarily dealt with tax avoidance.
In return for his services, Wexner gave Epstein power of attorney and a free run of his company. Epstein not only stole millions of dollars from his client, but dropped his name to prey on several young women vying to be Victoria Secret models. Once again, he was leaning on his now established playbook. Make money for rich people, enter their protective network and then use it to abuse ordinary people.
The rest of Epstein’s story is murky only because very powerful people want to keep it this way. How does a convinced sex offender not only avoid jail time but manage to be friends with both a Republican and Democratic President (who are ‘coincidentally’ amongst the most sexually deviant men to hold that office)? How does he establish a network on the European continent, complete with a Parisian apartment?
He even befriends a member of the British royal family, Prince Andrew, who is only now beginning to regret the association. How is all of this possible when the average sex offender is shunned by polite society, romantic partners and potential employers? The answer of course is that the rules are very different from the rich.
The tragicomedy of sentencing laws and their capture by special interests merits its own book, but suffice to say when your friend is a President, the local district attorney not only frees you, he vouches for you.
It took astonishing bravery on the part of his victims and dogged journalism to bring Epstein to book. The Government did not catch him, the big investment banks did not cry “scam”, the modelling agencies did not protect their clients and law enforcement turned a blind eye. The powerful left him in peace till the very end, clearing his cell so he could allegedly take his own life. We are thus left with an unsavoury, yet obvious conclusion – national and corporate codes of ethics do not apply to rich people.
Unless the rest of us scream bloody murder. So we must scream, incessantly, for soon a voice is all we will have left.