Ross/Franco case settled

Rick Ross

On the day before trial was scheduled, Stephanie Franco and NXIVM reported to Judge Heyden that their almost 15 year old case was settled.

No indication as to the terms.

The settlement probably was a mutual decision to drop the case with neither side paying the other anything.

The judge still has to decide the Interfor/NXIVM claims.   There is still the potential for NXIVM to appeal the summary judgment ruling but that seems unlikely at this point.

Keith Raniere began this lawsuit in 2003, suing Rick Ross, Stephanie Franco and her parents, Morris Sutton and his wife. Both Mr. and Mrs. Sutton died during the course of the case. It was estimated that the case – full of litigation tricks and more than half a dozen lawyers by and for Raniere/NXIVM – cost the Bronfman sisters at least $6 million in legal fees.

Raniere started the case like a lion, swearing that Ross and Franco, by revealing some of his secret teachings, had destroyed NXIVM/Executive Success Programs’ (ESP) ability to recruit new students. Like so many of Raniere’s initiatives, it ended with a whimper.

Now, after the national and international stories of NXIVM’s branding and blackmail stories, his pedophilia, and his destruction of so many people’s lives and fortunes, recruitment at NXIVM/ESP is decimated. It had little to do with Franco.

The Franco case had to settle – on the eve of trial – since Raniere and all the High Rank of NXIVM are under federal investigation. Raniere and others are believed to have fled the country. No one was willing to appear in court in Newark, New Jersey.

The excuse that, because NXIVM’s attorney, Robert Crockett, could not appear at the scheduled trial date of January 20, 2018, because of eye surgery – which led him to declare that none of the NXIVM witnesses would appear to put on a case –  was  proven to be a lie.

The judge gave Crockett the extra time for his eye to mend – and set the trial date for this week. But still no one from NXIVM was willing to appear – probably, among other things, because of their fear that FBI agents would be attending the trial. So they wimped out. They settled their 15-year old beef with Franco – which supposedly cost them millions – for nothing. Zip. Zilch. Zero.

Raniere is more than a man about to be punished for his long karmic debt. He is a toothless lion. His roar is feeble; his bite non-existent.

He cowered away from proving Franco damaged him or his companies – and just dropped the case. It reminds me of a bully who picks on someone for years and then when the fight is about to begin, he says “Let’s drop the whole thing”.

I don’t blame Franco for settling – just to be done with it and stop paying her lawyers, for this case has probably cost her a fortune as well.

The case overall was about her brother, Michael Sutton, who Raniere swindled out of much of his fortune and persuaded him to quit the lucrative Sutton family garment business to become an Executive Success teacher and to invest in the commodities market under Raniere’s guidance.

Naturally, Michael lost every dollar he invested under Raniere’s guidance. [Millions in losses.] Viva Executive Success!

The lawsuit against Ross was dismissed some time ago.

The case was truncated and the lawsuit against by NXIVM against Franco and the Suttons remained. The Suttons died leaving only Franco.

Rick Ross tried to help Michael Sutton’s worried parents and sister help Michael get out of the cult before he lost all his money. In so doing, Ross did the nation a great service by exposing the insane NXIVM/ESP cult and, by fighting, rather than taking down some damning info from the internet about Raniere’s cult. Because of this Rick Ross and his attorneys, helped strengthened our First Amendment rights and pioneered internet freedom of speech and clarified fair use doctrine,

Ironically Big Brother Raniere who so opposes free speech, helped by being a foil and a fool the cause of free speech. World’s smartest man.

The NXVIM V. Ross/Franco case, for those who will study it, is an object lesson on legal abuse. Raniere kept this case alive for almost 15 years  for one reason and one reason only:  because he had the backing of the Bronfman sisters to spend millions of dollars on legal fees.

Raniere’s claims never had any merit. Yet, his lies were never punished by any judge. Just when he could have been caught in his lies and really got punished, he chickened out. Textbook Raniere.

He entered like a lion and retreated like a lamb and with a whimper.

Keith Raniere was last seen in Monterrey Mexico. What great principle is the great ethicist pursuing there – or is he just avoiding his inevitable arrest and incarceration?

ESPians… was it ethical for him to settle the case instead of pursuing the trial?



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Frank Parlato

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5 years ago

Sutton was not enrolled by Bouchey. He was enrolled by a natural health professional he was seeing who thought the training would help him,with some of his health issues.

He did loan Rainier millions to help him on a bailout of a margin call but was never repaid.

He was a coach but was in and out of NXIVM. He got out in the early years before things got really weird.

5 years ago

What happened with Franco’s brother? Is he still involved?

Outsider thoughts on Michael Sutton
Outsider thoughts on Michael Sutton
5 years ago
Reply to  Villagedianne

From what I remember and I may not be totally right, Michael Sutton was a client/friend of Barbara Bouchey’s. Barbara brought him in. His and her monies were the first to be lost in the commodities venture. Apparently after taking NXIVM courses he didn’t feel that the family business Lollytogs now known as LT Apparel Group was for him any longer. He became a coach and wanted to devote his time to NXIVM and step away from the family business which upset his now deceased father greatly. His secret was he allegedly fathered a child with a women who was not of Jewish descent.

Stephanie Franco deserves credit for outing NXIVM for what we on the outside know it is. Hopefully, now she can put this all behind her.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

IMDb — Frank Parlato

Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083


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