A review of the late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s donations to Ohio State is being conducted by professional services firm Ernst and Young and is expected to be completed in the next several weeks, University President Michael V. Drake said.
Drake discussed Epstein’s donations, how the university plans to handle the donations and Epstein’s relationship with Chair of the Wexner Medical Center Board of Trustees Les Wexner in an interview with The Lantern on Monday.
“We care very much about who we are and we want to have appropriate relationships with people and there’s certain people who we wouldn’t work with based on who we know they are,” Drake said. “Those data we consider and try to review things to be appropriate about that.”
The university’s preliminary review found that Epstein’s private foundation — CUOQ Foundation — anonymously donated $2.5 million to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center that was applied to the naming of the Les Wexner Football Complex in 2007, according to a July statement. Epstein also donated $1,000 to the Wexner Center for the Arts membership fund in 1990, according to the statement.
Drake said the university will make a decision about how to respond to donations once the investigation is complete. For example, the university revoked Bill Cosby’s honorary degree in April 2018 following the emergence of sexual abuse allegations against Cosby, Drake said.
“There’s a variety of things one can do,” he said. “We’d look to make sure the money was put to good and appropriate use, no question about that.”
Drake said the university will spend “as little as possible, as much as it takes” on the investigation, but that he does not anticipate the review to be “horrifically expensive.”
The university is typically familiar with donors and the Board of Trustees’ Advancement Committee vets large donations, Drake said.
“Everyone is looking more carefully at cases like this,” he said.
On whether there are concerns about Epstein’s relationship with Wexner, Drake said the university has seen the reports in the media and that is all the information the university has.
“The Wexners have been great supporters of the university in multiple ways for many years and have done many things to uplift the community and the university, and we appreciate that very much,” he said. “You’ve seen from Mr. Wexner how regrettable his relationship with Mr. Epstein is to him. And we would only be able to concur with him on that. That’s a relationship I’m sure he wishes he hadn’t had. And we understand.”
Wexner detailed his relationship with Epstein, which included the fact that Epstein managed Wexner’s personal finances, in a letter to the Wexner Foundation community posted on the foundation’s website Aug. 8.
Wexner said in the letter that he severed ties with Epstein in 2007 after allegations against Epstein came to light. In the process, Wexner said he discovered that Epstein had misappropriated “vast sums of money.”
“I know now that my trust in him was grossly misplaced and I deeply regret having ever crossed his path,” Wexner said in the letter.
Epstein was arrested July 6 and charged with sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, according to an indictment unsealed July 8 in a Manhattan federal court. A press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York states Epstein “enticed and recruited” dozens of minor girls, some as young as 14, between 2002 and 2005.
Epstein died by suicide Aug. 10 in his jail cell.