Goodwin Procter report says senior members of MIT’s administration approved Epstein’s donations to MIT
Professor Seth Lloyd placed on administrative leave
The results of the law firm Goodwin Procter’s investigation of MIT’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein were released by the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation Jan. 10. The fact-finding report concludes that senior members of MIT’s administration approved Epstein’s donations to MIT without President L. Rafael Reif’s knowledge.
Reif and the executive committee instructed MIT’s General Counsel to retain Goodwin Procter to conduct the fact-finding investigation September 2019. The report uses information from 73 interviews with 59 individuals and a review of over 610,000 emails and documents.
According to the report, Jeffrey Epstein made ten donations to MIT totaling $850,000 between 2002 and 2017. The earliest donation was a gift of $100,000 to Professor Marvin Minsky’s research in 2002. The other nine donations, totaling $750,000, were made after his 2008 conviction as a sex offender.
Of the post-conviction donations, the Media Lab received $525,000 and professor of mechanical engineering Seth Lloyd received $225,000.
The report states that Epstein visited MIT nine times between 2013 and 2017. Goodwin Procter found that these visits and post-conviction donations were arranged by former Director of the Media Lab Joi Ito and Lloyd rather than by MIT administration.
Goodwin Procter concluded that Reif “was not contemporaneously aware of” and “had no role in approving MIT’s acceptance of the donations.” Preliminary results of the investigation, disclosed in September, found that Reif signed a standard letter thanking Epstein for a $50,000 donation to Lloyd Aug. 16, 2012.
“There is no evidence that President Reif, or anyone else involved in sending the Presidential Acknowledgement letter in 2012, had any knowledge that Epstein had a criminal record or was controversial in any way,” the report says, noting that during this time frame Reif “was asked to sign approximately 500 such Presidential Acknowledgement letters to donors per year.”
However, the law firm found evidence that former Vice President and General Counsel R. Gregory Morgan, former Vice President for Resource Development Jeffrey Newton, and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz SM ’01 were aware of both Epstein’s criminal record and his donations to the Media Lab.
Morgan, Newton, and Ruiz “established an informal framework in 2013, under which all subsequent Epstein donations to MIT were ultimately approved,” the report states.
Ruiz wrote in an email to The Tech that his recent decision to step down from his position was “not related” to the fact-finding investigation. Newton retired in 2013, and Morgan retired in 2018.
The investigation concluded that while “the decision to accept Epstein’s post-conviction donations cannot be judged as a policy violation,” it was the result of “collective and significant errors in judgment.”
“There is no evidence that anyone in MIT’s central administration was aware of any of Epstein’s visits to MIT’s campus,” the report states.
The report states that Lloyd accepted two $50,000 donations in 2012 and $125,000 in 2017 to fund his research, as well as a personal gift of $60,000 from Epstein in 2005 or 2006. Lloyd did not notify MIT of the personal gift.
According to the report, Lloyd “purposefully failed to inform MIT” that Epstein was the source of the 2012 donations.
Reif has placed Lloyd on paid administrative leave.
The Tech joined a press call with MIT Corporation executive committee members Alan Spoon ’73 and Denis Bovin ’69 and Goodwin Procter attorneys Roberto Braceras and Jennifer Chunias. Braceras and Chunias led the investigation.
Spoon said that Goodwin Procter has “served MIT well and expertly in a number of matters.” Braceras has previously represented MIT in class action lawsuits “involving claims seeking greater accessibility to various websites,” according to Goodwin Procter’s website.
Spoon said that the executive committee has “expressed full confidence in [Reif’s] leadership,” applauding Reif’s commitment to listening to faculty concerns over the past months.
Spoon said that the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP became involved in the fact-finding process to assist Goodwin Procter by “providing counsel and insight in the investigation and interpretation of the findings.” Unlike Goodwin Procter, Paul Weiss had no relationship with MIT prior to the investigation.
When asked what aspect of the investigation he found the most surprising, Spoon called the number of visits by Epstein to the MIT campus a “very disturbing discovery.”
Bovin said that although MIT has traditionally been an “open campus” in which faculty may freely invite guests, Epstein’s visits to campus prove that additional safety measures are necessary.
According to the report, Goodwin Procter found no evidence that Epstein arranged anonymous gifts to MIT from wealthy donors such as Bill Gates and Leon Black, as Epstein previously claimed.
Braceras said that representatives of Gates “denied that any Gates donation” was related to Epstein. Chunias added that Stroz Friedberg, a third-party firm specializing in digital forensics that Goodwin Procter retained for the investigation, confirmed that there was no evidence that Epstein encouraged donations from Gates or Black.
The New Yorker reported Sept. 6 that Epstein was “credited with securing” two million from Gates and $5.5 million from Black.
Braceras said that Epstein invested in one of Ito’s venture capital funds, “which is not against current MIT policy.” Spoon added that “sharpening and clarifying any and all concerns about conflicts of interest” in donations to private firms and research might serve to reduce such “side door possibilities.”
In response to a question about Lloyd’s paid administrative leave, Spoon said that Lloyd is currently “being subject to review in his home department of mechanical engineering,” and that disciplinary proceedings are “moving swiftly.” Bovin added that mechanical engineering department head Evelyn Wang ’00 is “fully involved” in “doing what is procedurally appropriate at MIT.”
Wang wrote in an email to The Tech that the department plans to “review the findings in the report and consider any appropriate disciplinary action.”
In an email to the MIT community Jan. 10, President Reif outlined the Executive Committee’s recommendations.
The committee recommends the creation of policies to “guide decisions about controversial donors.” The Ad Hoc Faculty Committee on Guidelines for Outside Engagements and the Ad Hoc Committee to Review MIT Gift Processes, which were launched in the fall, will present their recommendations in the spring.
Reif wrote that in the interim, an “additional process” has been instituted to “make sure all relevant information is reviewed before any reasonably significant gift is accepted.” Reif has also asked the vice president for resource development and the CEO of the MIT Alumni Association to improve the donor database’s “integrity and factual accuracy.”
Other recommendations include building “a culture in which whistleblowing is accepted, effective, and safe,” creating guidelines to keep MIT’s campus safe from “visitors who pose a direct threat,” supporting the Media Lab as it assesses its “future internal governance” and searches for a new director, and forming an “Institute-wide community process to address persistent issues in our campus climate.”
Reif wrote that he “profoundly regrets” that “decisions that sustained MIT’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein occurred on [his] watch,” and that he feels a “deep responsibility to repair what has been broken.”
Reif wrote that MIT administration is currently “designing an inclusive process that will allow our community to articulate the goals we share for our campus climate and culture, and decide how best to achieve them — together.”
MIT offers several resources to survivors of sexual assault and violence, including MIT Student Mental Health and Counseling Services, MIT Violence Prevention and Response, MIT Title IX and Bias Response Office, MIT Medical, MIT Police, and an anonymous hotline.
Editor’s note: This article will be updated as more information arises.