University administrator with ties to Jeffrey Epstein placed on leave

The University has placed Director of Development for Computer and Data Science Initiatives Peter Cohen on administrative leave following reports that he helped secure money from Jeffrey Epstein for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, where he was previously employed, according to Brian Clark, director of News and Development.

The University hired Cohen in October 2018. He previously served as the Director of Development and Strategy at MIT’s Media Lab. Joi Ito, former director of the Media Lab, resigned from his position Saturday after the New Yorker published an article revealing that Epstein was credited with securing the Media Lab $7.5 million in funding. At the time, Epstein was listed as “disqualified” in M.I.T.’s official donor database.

“We are engaged in a review of available information regarding Mr. Cohen in the context of Brown University policies, core values and the University’s commitment to treat employees fairly,” Clark wrote. “The review does not constitute any adverse determination, and it would be premature to speak to any potential outcomes.”

Clark said in an email to The Herald that Brown has never received any funds from Epstein.

Cohen could not be reached by press time.

The New Yorker article, published on Friday, reported that staff at the Media Lab, including Cohen, attempted to conceal the extent of its relationship with Epstein from 2013 to 2015. In spite of Epstein’s “disqualified” status, the Media Lab continued to accept his help, marking the contributions as anonymous. Emails obtained by the New Yorker show that Epstein acted as a liaison between significant donors and the Media Lab — directing $7.5 million from Bill Gates, philanthropist and founder of Microsoft, and Leon Black, the founder of private equity firm Apollo Global Management, to the Media Lab.

Cohen reportedly worked to ensure that Epstein remained anonymous in both public-facing and internal communications. “Jeffrey money, needs to be anonymous,” Cohen wrote in an email obtained by the New Yorker. When Epstein visited the Media Lab, Cohen directed his staff to keep a professor who didn’t approve of Epstein’s involvement away from the meeting room in which he would be presenting.

Epstein pled guilty to two charges of prostitution in 2008, one involving a minor under the age of 18. This July, Epstein was indicted on charges of sex crimes involving minors and denied bail. He died in jail August 10, by an apparent suicide.

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