But three central administration officials were aware Epstein was donating money to the school in 2013 and created a framework for those gifts, the report concluded. They required the donations to be relatively small and unpublicized so that Epstein could not use them in an attempt to whitewash his reputation. The report concludes that those administrators made the decision, not lower-level staff members.
The report found that MIT President L. Rafael Reif did not know the school was accepting gifts from an accused pedophile and convicted sex offender.
MIT will donate $850,000 to a charity that benefits survivors of sexual abuse.
Lloyd received gifts that he did not report to MIT, according to the report, and has been placed on administrative leave. Lloyd declined to comment Friday.
Ito did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday. Reif, Lloyd and Ito have all apologized publicly and promised to donate to charities benefiting survivors of sexual abuse.
People interviewed for the report recalled that Epstein was referred to as “Voldemort” or “he who must not be named.” In addition to Goodwin Procter, the executive committee retained a second law firm, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison.
The school received donations from Epstein as early as 2002, according to the findings released Friday by the executive committee of the MIT Corp. On several occasions, people in the Media Lab and university administration raised concerns about the gifts, but those warnings were not heeded until 2017, according to the executive committee.
Reif said the report “stands as a sharp reminder of human fallibility and its consequences” and pledged changes, including policies for evaluating controversial donors and protecting whistleblowers and the campus community from visitors who may pose a threat.
The report provides a window into internal discussions between two leading MIT professors deciding whether to cultivate Epstein as a donor. Ito emailed Nicholas Negroponte, the co-founder of the Media Lab.
Ito sent a Wikipedia page that referenced Epstein’s crime and asked Negroponte’s opinion. “I know him quite well. … I would take Berlusconi’s money, so why not Jeff,” Negroponte responded, according to the report. (Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister of Italy, was accused of hiring underage prostitutes and dating underage girls, according to the law firm report.)
Epstein’s preexisting relationship with Harvard University and other prominent academics were all cited as reasons Ito decided to forge a relationship with the financier. He made a series of gifts to the Media Lab, never larger than $150,000 at a time, despite being courted to make much larger donations.
When Ito was told that MIT would not accept a donation from Epstein, he tried to find loopholes, suggesting Epstein “swap donations with someone elses’ foundation, to conceal the origin of the donation,” according to the report. Ultimately, the MIT development office agreed to accept donations that would be recorded as anonymous, to avoid Epstein using the imprimatur of the university to rehabilitate his reputation.
Senior administrators did not know of Epstein’s repeated visits to the Cambridge, Mass., campus, which followed his conviction as a sex offender, the report concluded.
In recent months, universities and other leading institutions have confronted difficult questions about the philanthropy that fuels their efforts, and the source of the money. The millions of dollars Epstein gave to some of the country’s elite institutions enabled important research — and a facade of credibility for a convicted sex offender.
“The revelations that MIT had a donor relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender, have deeply shaken the MIT community and have caused many to question the Institute’s commitment to its values,” the executive committee members wrote in a statement Friday.
“The revelations have been particularly painful to those in the community who, themselves, are victims of sexual assault and abuse. At the same time, the news of Epstein’s involvement with MIT has triggered broader conversations about MIT’s culture, campus climate and power inequities, in particular around the treatment of women and staff,” the statement said.
The report details how Epstein used his relationship with Lloyd to try to test whether MIT would still accept his money. Before Epstein’s conviction, Lloyd had accepted a $60,000 gift from Epstein and deposited it into his personal bank account, circumventing the normal MIT process for accepting philanthropic funds.
After his conviction, Epstein was frustrated when other institutions refused to accept his money, according to the report, and made two $50,000 donations in 2012 to support Lloyd’s research, in an attempt to “test whether MIT would accept his money,” according to the report. "im going to give you two 50k tranches to see if the line jingles,” Epstein wrote to Lloyd.
Lloyd, who had visited Epstein in prison, attempted to hide the source of the $50,000 donation, according to the report, providing the name “Lesley Groff,” one of Epstein’s assistants.
In 2017, Lloyd asked Epstein for funding for a sabbatical and received $125,000.
The report found that most of Epstein’s visits to campus between 2013 and 2017 did not involve interactions with students. Ito told investigators that Epstein wanted to meet only with faculty, and only met with students on one occasion, in late 2015.
But it also showed that Ito and Negroponte debated whether to invite him to campus for a more public event the next year, a memorial for scientist Marvin Minsky. “I asked him if he was coming. He asked if he were allowed to come,” Ito wrote to Negroponte. “One option would be to get in a private room at the Lab where he can ‘hold court’ and people … could see him out of the public eye.”
Epstein came to campus but did not attend the memorial event or cocktail reception. Photos of the event were sent around to members of the Media Lab to be shared on social media, with one caveat: “as long as Jeffrey Epstein does not appear in the photos!”
Epstein pleaded guilty to two felony offenses in 2008, including procuring a person under 18 for prostitution. He was arrested in July on new federal charges of sexually abusing dozens of girls in the early 2000s and later found dead while in federal custody.
In his September letter, Reif wrote that school officials should have asked more questions about Epstein. “We did not see through the limited facts we had, and we did not take time to understand the gravity of Epstein’s offenses or the harm to his young victims,” he wrote. “I take responsibility for those errors.”