Massachusetts Institute of Technology disciplining professor with ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein

By Tanner Stening | tstening@masslive.com

A physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein is facing disciplinary action for not informing MIT that Epstein was a convicted sex offender.

A majority of members on an MIT panel found that Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Systems and Physics Seth Lloyd violated the college’s conflict of interest policy in connection with donations he received from Epstein, according to an email sent out by college Provost Martin A. Schmidt.

The five-member panel consisted of Professor Rohan Abeyaratne, Institute Professor Daron Acemoglu, Institute Professor Penny Chisholm, Materials Science and Engineering Department Head Jeffrey Grossman and Dean of Science Nergis Mavalvala.

Lloyd accepted donations from Epstein, including two $50,000 contributions in 2012 intended to support his work, according to a Goodwin Procter a report released earlier this year. Lloyd did not inform MIT that Epstein was the source of the donations, the report stated.

The college commissioned Goodwin Procter to conduct the investigation looking at “interactions between Jeffrey Epstein and the Institute.” MIT’s president, L. Rafael Reif, requested the probe in September 2019.

But the MIT panel said Lloyd didn’t violate MIT policies in accepting a gift from Epstein roughly 15 years ago and the donation in 2017. They also said they don’t believe Lloyd attempted to circumvent the MIT vetting process, nor that he tried to conceal the name of the donor.

“They did conclude, however, that he failed to reveal crucial information about Epstein’s background to anyone at MIT,” Schmidt said.

The MIT panel submitted its findings to a separate committee, which comprised Dean of Engineering Anantha Chandrakasan, Mechanical Engineering Department Head Evelyn Wang, Physics Department Head Peter Fisher, Mechanical Engineering Associate Department Head Pierre Lermusiaux and Faculty Chair Rick Danheiser.

Schmidt wrote to the community to detail disciplinary actions taken against Lloyd.

“For a period of five years, a set of disciplinary actions will limit Professor Lloyd’s compensation, his ability to engage in solicitation of donors and foundations, and his involvement in first-year undergraduate advising, and will impose several other restrictions on normal privileges accorded to a faculty member,” Schmidt wrote. “In addition, Professor Lloyd will be expected to undergo training on professional conduct before resuming certain activities on campus, including teaching.”

The Goodwin Procter report found that Epstein, who died by suicide in August 2019 while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges, made 10 donations to the college between 2002 and 2017 totaling $850,000, and that several MIT administrators knew and approved of the contributions. With the exception of one $100,000 donation, all of those contributions had been made after he was convicted of sex crimes.

Schmidt acknowledged that the punitive measures “cannot undo the harm” that has been done.

“Professor Lloyd’s failure to share what he knew about Epstein’s conviction when he accepted his 2012 donations was unacceptable,” Schmidt said. “His interactions with Epstein and certain of his actions surrounding acceptance of the donations serve to highlight the importance of the current Institute-wide effort to develop clearer guidelines for engaging with donors.”

After Goodwin Procter report was released, Reif requested that Schmidt create a process to review its findings and to “identify any appropriate action.”

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