Earlier this month, The New Yorker reported that the MIT Media Lab had concealed large donations from convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. USC has officially stated that the university has not received any money from Epstein, or any entity associated with the now-deceased financier.
While MIT and Harvard both have been linked to Epstein’s donations, USC appears to have not been involved with Epstein. In an official statement, a university official told Annenberg Media that “USC has not received donations from Jeffrey Epstein or any entity with which he was affiliated.”
USC cited the university’s gift acceptance policy in its official statement to Annenberg Media. The policy lists multiple circumstances in which the university may not accept a gift or donation. One of these circumstances is if a gift or donation “could damage the reputation of the university.”
Tax forms for Gratitude America Ltd., Epstein’s charitable foundation that he used to make numerous donations, confirm the administration’s statement. The forms, which must be completed on a yearly basis, show that no payments were made by the foundation to USC or any entities affiliated with the university.
In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to the solicitation of prostitution involving a minor, a felony. He served 13 months for his crimes and was released in 2010. More recently, Epstein was charged with child sex trafficking, a charge that carried a potential 45-year sentence. This August, just over a month after his arrest, Epstein was found dead in his cell from what New York City’s medical examiner ruled a suicide.
Following his 2008 conviction, Epstein was listed as a “disqualified donor” at MIT. Despite this, the Media Lab at the prominent research university continued to accept donations from him. His donations were often filed under “anonymous” to conceal the relationship the lab had with Epstein.
Following the release of the New Yorker article, the director of the MIT Media Lab, Joi Ito, stepped down from his position.
Epstein’s philanthropic ventures did not stop with MIT. Harvard had also accepted $6.5 million in donations from Epstein in 2003. After Epstein’s 2008 conviction, Harvard publicly announced that it would not return the donation. Harvard has maintained this stance on Epstein’s donations.
In addition to making donations to MIT through his foundations, Epstein frequently solicited donations from wealthy acquaintances. Billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates was among those who donated money at Epstein’s request. In total, Epstein solicited $7.5 million in donations to MIT’s Media Lab.
Correction at 10:54 a.m. on Sept. 24: A previous version of this story misspelled Jeffrey Epstein’s first name. Also, a previous version of this story referred to Bill Gates as Microsoft CEO. Gates is the founder.