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Review Finds Jeffrey Epstein Played 'No Meaningful Role' At Wexner Foundation

Les Wexner
Jay LaPrete
Les Wexner

An outside review found that accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein played “no meaningful role” in the budget or finances of the Wexner Foundation, and that Epstein did not use the foundation to commit any crimes.

The examination of the Wexner Foundation was led by Columbus-based law firm Kegler Brown Hill and Ritter. The review, published Wednesday, found that Epstein made no direct financial contributions to the foundation, and wasn't involved with its fellowship and leadership programs.

“Epstein never contributed even a single dollar to financially support the work of the Foundation,” writes Wexner Foundation president Elka Abrahamson.

Epstein was the longtime financial adviser of Columbus billionaire and L Brands founder Les Wexner. He also served as a trustee of the Wexner Foundation from 1992 until his firing in 2007. That year, Epstein reached a deal with in Florida, pleading guilty to state charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution. He subsequently served a 13-month jail sentence and registered as a sex offender.

In 2008, Epstein transfered $46 million to the YLK Charitable Fund, a private foundation run by Avigail Wexner. Wexner told Wexner Foundation members that was a partial repayment for “vast sums of money” that Epstein allegedly misappropriated from the family.

“I am embarrassed that, like so many others, I was deceived by Mr. Epstein. I know now that my trust in him was grossly misplaced and I deeply regret having ever crossed his path,” Wexner wrote in a memo.

The review partially backs up Wexner's claims against Epstein.

COUQ Foundation, a charitable organization run by Epstein, recieved a total of $21 million in stock from the Wexner Children's Trust and the Leslie H. Wexner Charitable Fund in 2001 and 2003. Both Les and Abigail Wexner said they did not know about or authorize those transfers.

"COUQ Foundation's endowment was in fact funded almost exclusively through transfers of Wexner family funds," the review found.

Abrahamson adds that she asked Abigail Wexner why the family did not pursue legal action after discovering Epstein’s misappropriation.

“She explained that given the financial discoveries and what the Wexners were learning about the allegations of sexual misconduct against Epstein being raised in Florida, the Wexners concluded it was in the best interest of their family to avoid ongoing litigation entanglements and to terminate all association with Epstein immediately,” Abrahamson writes.

As a Wexner Foundation trustee, Epstein formally approved annual grants made to the Wexner Heritage Foundation before the two merged in 2005. He and other trustees also signed actions appointing foundation officers and other formalities.

According to the review, Epstein held the role of President of the Wexner family financial office but wassn't involved in its functions. Longtime Wexner Foundation employee Larry Moses told investigators that Epstein "was absent from the organizational life" of the foundation.

"Epstein never had an office at the Foundation, and none of the Foundation leaders we interviewed recalled ever seeing Epstein present in the Foundation offices," the review reads.

Members and alumni of foundation programs sought the review after the wealthy financier's arrest last July on federal charges.

Epstein was accused of trafficking and abusing dozens of underage girls in Florida and New York in the early 2000s. He died in a Manhattan jail in August.

Wexner has repeatedly denied knowledge of allegations against Epstein. Wexner announced his retirement from L Brands last week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.