Already a member? Log In

The Epstein Posthumous Legal Battle

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell
Photo by Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan
William D. Cohan
January 19, 2022

Dan Novack, an enterprising First Amendment attorney, is one of the country’s foremost experts at prying documents out of the federal government using the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. Novack first came to my attention several years ago, after he successfully obtained a draft complaint in which Benjamin Wagner, then the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California, alleged inconsistencies with JPMorgan Chase’s due-diligence process in the lead-up to the financial crisis. The document was never filed, and shortly thereafter, JPMorgan reached a then-record $13 billion settlement with the Department of Justice. I later wrote about the saga for Vanity Fair. If Novack hadn’t unearthed it, despite the bank’s efforts to keep it buried, it’s likely it never would have seen the light of day.

Since then, of course, Novack has been keeping busy. In addition to being a pro-bono FOIA attorney, Novack is associate general counsel at Penguin Random House, the big book publisher, and has served as counsel to First Look Media, the publisher of The Intercept, and as counsel to A360 Media, the publisher of, among others, The National Enquirer and RadarOnline. It’s in the latter role that Novack has been trying for nearly five years to get the F.B.I. to cough up documents stemming from the agency’s 2006 investigation of Jeffrey Epstein, the notorious sex trafficker.