Es­tate could take years to un­ravel

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Front Page - By An­drew Bo­ryga

Jef­frey Ep­stein’s sur­prise death Sat­ur­day in a New York jail casts un­cer­tainty into the man­age­ment of the con­sid­er­able as­sets the wealthy fi­nancier left be­hind.

Al­though Ep­stein has long been ru­mored to be a bil­lion­aire, re­cent court doc­u­ments sug­gest his for­tune is worth a lit­tle over $559 mil­lion dol­lars.

In­cluded in that num­ber is a Man­hat­tan es­tate val­ued at over $50 mil­lion and a Palm Beach es­tate val­ued a hair over $12 mil­lion.

Spencer Ku­vin, a Palm Beach at­tor­ney who rep­re­sented three of Ep­stein’s vic­tims in a first fed­eral case against him over a decade ago, has no doubt that new vic­tims who have come for­ward in re­cent months will go af­ter Ep­stein’s es­tate.

How­ever, Ku­vin is also quite cer­tain that those vic­tims will face an up­hill le­gal bat­tle be­fore they ever see a penny. “It’s go­ing to be a le­gal mess for years to come,” he said.

Ku­vin, whose own clients have al­ready set­tled

cases with Ep­stein, said he did not know any specifics about what might hap­pen to Ep­stein’s wealth and whether Ep­stein left be­hind a will.

How­ever, Ku­vin did say that dur­ing the ini­tial fed­eral case against Ep­stein in 2008, a full as­set search was con­ducted which re­vealed that much of Ep­stein’s as­sets were split among mul­ti­ple cor­po­ra­tions, en­ti­ties, trusts and off­shore ac­counts.

“It’s go­ing to be a morass of le­gal wran­gling to fig­ure out all the con­nec­tions be­tween ev­ery­thing,” Ku­vin said.

Adam Horowitz, a Fort Laud­erdale at­tor­ney who set­tled eight civil law­suits against Ep­stein on be­half of vic­tims a decade ago, agreed.

“Wealthy peo­ple with the means to hire fi­nan­cial plan­ners tend to in­su­late them­selves from law­suits,” Horowitz said.

He be­lieves the suc­cess of the suits will de­pend on how much of Ep­stein’s as­sets were pro­tected and who will be ap­pointed to take con­trol. Horowitz said he is not aware of Ep­stein hav­ing any chil­dren. The clos­est sur­viv­ing rel­a­tive, to his knowl­edge, is Ep­stein’s younger brother, Mark, who lives in New York.

That $559 mil­lion num­ber listed in re­cent court fil­ings should also be taken with a grain of salt, ac­cord­ing to Horowitz. The doc­u­ments don’t say where the money is held or by whom, which paints an un­cer­tain pic­ture about how much will be avail­able for vic­tims to pur­sue.

Horowitz’s past deal­ings with Ep­stein’s le­gal team a decade ago could pro­vide some in­sight.

Horowitz said that be­cause he and his clients were seek­ing puni­tive dam­ages at the time, they were en­ti­tled to un­cover Ep­stein’s net worth so the court could take it into ac­count when de­cid­ing com­pen­sa­tion.

Horowitz said that Ep­stein’s lawyers ob­jected to re­leas­ing the num­bers and stalled, never pro­vid­ing a full dis­clo­sure. All they ad­mit­ted to was that Ep­stein was worth over a bil­lion dol­lars — a fig­ure that has been dis­puted.

Horowitz said that dur­ing lit­i­ga­tion, Ep­stein’s lawyers made it clear that even if his clients were to win a judge­ment, there was no way they would ever col­lect the money. Horowitz said he in­ter­preted that to mean that the money was tied up and pro­tected.

On the other hand, he said, it could have been a ne­go­ti­at­ing tac­tic to en­cour­age the vic­tims Horowitz rep­re­sented to set­tle — which they did.

The pos­si­bil­ity that Ep­stein’s money may be dif­fi­cult to ob­tain will not scare Los An­ge­les based at­tor­ney Lisa Bloom away from fil­ing two suits against his es­tate later this week. “I as­sume, like ev­ery case I take on, that it will be dif­fi­cult and I will have to fight for years and years,” Bloom said.

Bloom rep­re­sents two of Ep­stein’s vic­tims from New York who had been co­op­er­at­ing with the open fed­eral crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “That case is now over,” she said, “but a crim­i­nal case is still pos­si­ble.”

Bloom said she hopes that who­ever is charged with ad­min­is­ter­ing Ep­stein’s as­sets will hold them un­til all vic­tims can come for­ward and be com­pen­sated for his ac­tions. She is pre­pared to pro­ceed even if that ad­min­is­tra­tor is un­co­op­er­a­tive.

Ear­lier this year, Bloom won $11 mil­lion in dam­ages for a woman who ac­cused an­other bil­lion­aire of sex­ual as­sault. Bloom said she is well versed in large es­tates that at­tempt to con­ceal their true value.

“That is what I ex­pect,” Bloom said. “Bil­lion­aires typ­i­cally hide their money.”

What will be in­ter­est­ing, Bloom said, is whether ben­e­fi­cia­ries of Ep­stein’s es­tate are will­ing to do right by his vic­tims, many of whom, she said, have suf­fered life­long de­pres­sion as a re­sult of their en­coun­ters. “The dam­ages are very real,” Bloom said. “I think its jus­tice for his money to be used to com­pen­sate for those dam­ages.”

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