What I told MIT about Epstein’s donations
I’ve been accused of accepting money from Jeffrey Epstein and hiding his identity from MIT. The accusation that I accepted money from Epstein is true and I stand by my previous apology for this lapse of judgement, which will continue to weigh on my conscience for the rest of my life. The accusation that I hid Epstein’s identity from MIT, which is leveled in the recently released Goodwin Procter report, is completely false, as I will explain below. Please note that I am sharing this information not to in any way diminish my mistakes, but because I should be judged for only what I actually did.
The Goodwin Procter report on MIT’s involvement with Jeffrey Epstein finds that I ‘purposely failed’ to inform MIT that Epstein was the source of donations to MIT, and that I ‘knowingly facilitated Epstein’s plan to circumvent any possible MIT vetting process.’ These findings, among others about me, are false. As detailed below, I never hid the identity of Epstein as the donor prior to the donation being accepted. I facilitated the submission of the donation approval request to the MIT officers exactly so that they could vet it. MIT knew that the donor was Epstein and fully approved the donation with this knowledge. Prior to accepting any donation for MIT, I actively sought out the proper procedures from my departmental administrator, and I followed them.
The 2012 donation
In 2012, Jeffrey Epstein offered to fund my research at MIT. Having never received a donation for MIT before, I asked my departmental administrator to explain the procedure for accepting donations. We followed that procedure. I put the donor’s agent in touch with my departmental administrator; the adminstrator introduced the agent to the proper MIT officers; the agent explained that Epstein wished to donate $100,000 to MIT; the MIT officers considered the donation with full knowledge that Epstein was the donor; the donation was accepted. This is all documented in emails that I have provided to Goodwin Procter. Here are some quotes from the emails.
On June 24, 2012, from Epstein’s accountant to the MIT officers:
‘Jeffrey Epstein intends to make a gift in the amount of $100,000 in two tranches of $50,000 for the discretionary research for the support of Seth Lloyd.’
In response, on June 24, 2012, an MIT officer replied to Epstein’s accountant, in part:
‘Many thanks for your message on behalf of Jeffrey Epstein; we look forward to receiving the first installment of his gift . . . .’
The authors of the report imply that in my written apology, and in my expressions of regret I have ‘conceded’ to breaching ‘professional duties’ owed to MIT. I made no such concession.
The 2017 donation
In the case of Epstein’s 2017 donation, I again followed existing procedures with the same result. On June 1, 2017, the MIT Office of the Recording Secretary wrote to Epstein’s agent offering to assist with Epstein’s gift, and noting that past gifts from Epstein had been ‘recorded anonymously,’ an apparent reference to MIT’s arrangement for accepting Epstein’s gifts at the time (of which I was unaware.) Again, I furnished all of these emails to Goodwin Procter.
The 2006 donation
In 2005 or 2006, several years prior to his conviction, and at a time when I was completely unaware of any allegations against Epstein, he offered me a personal grant of $60,000 for the unrestricted support of my scientific research. He suggested that I set up a 501c3 corporation as a vehicle for the grant. The process of setting up the corporation took a long time and in the end Epstein gave me the money as a gift, on which I paid gift tax. I treated the money like any unrestricted grant and used it to support scientific research. The specific research that it supported can be found by looking at my multiple papers that acknowledge Mr. Epstein over the next several years.
The Goodwin Procter report accuses me of ‘possibly’ failing to follow MIT policies in accepting this grant. To the best of my knowledge, I complied with MIT policies regarding this grant.
In summary, I accepted Epstein’s donations to MIT in accordance with established MIT procedures, and the donations were approved by MIT with full knowledge of the identity of the donor. I didn’t hide the fact that Epstein was donating money to MIT. Nor did I conspire with Epstein to avoid any vetting process: I submitted the donation under the assumption that it would be vetted. I actively inquired about MIT’s proper procedures for accepting donations, and I followed them to the letter.
At the time that I accepted the 2006 grant (years before his 2008 conviction), my knowledge was that Epstein was a wealthy individual who liked to support science, and so accepting an unrestricted personal grant from him for performing scientific research was unproblematic.
Of course, none of this in any way diminishes my lapse in judgement in accepting Epstein’s donations to MIT in the first place. I stand by my previous apology for these mistakes of mine and take full responsibility for them. I ask only that I be judged for what I actually did, no less and no more.
Seth Lloyd, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, MIT