Nexum/NXIVM? Eerie parallels between Raniere sexslave cult and Ancient Roman slave contracts

Nexum or Nxivm -- what's the difference

On the heels of the arrest of alleged sex slaver, Keith Raniere, in Mexico last month, public interest has spiked into the previously secretive and hidden cult, NXIVM. Reports began surfacing in June last year that the secretive cult, whose secrets have long been kept by alleged threats of blackmail and by threats of legal action, was branding members, coercing female members into sex with Raniere, and committing massive financial crimes. Court records, and the divulsion of non-disclosure agreements suggest that Clare Bronfman, the sex cult’s chief financier, has not only enabled the massive litigation machine to silence victims with lawsuits and prison, but was personally involved and “orchestrated” criminal complaints against victims of the suit.

Sexslaver and NXIVM founder, Keith Raniere

The choice of the cult name itself is mysterious and interesting, and bears some similarity to an ancient Roman “contract.” Keith Raniere might have had his branding and blackmail scheme in mind long before he executed it. The name NXIVM appears to correspond with the ancient Roman concept of “Nexum”.

Nexum was a debt contract in the early Roman Republic. The debtor pledged his person, his actual body, as collateral, should he default on a loan. It was, in effect, a mortgage on a person, not on property.

Nexum was accompanied by a symbolic transfer of rights that involved a set of scales, copper weights, and a prescribed vow. Similar to DOS branding, the nexum contract was entered into with a ceremony with five witnesses. There was also a sixth person – a libripens, a person who held a brass balance.

Under the nexum contract, a free man became a nexus [bond slave] until he could pay off his debt to the obaeratus [creditor.]

(Guru-master Raniere has always taught his Nxians that nothing can repay his teachings).

There was no single nexum contract that all nexi entered. There were variations of the nexum contract, and the details of nexum contracts were worked out on a case-by-case basis.

Nexi were often beaten and abused by their owners.

According to the ancient historian, Livy, nexum was abolished because of the cruelty and lust of a single usurer, Lucius Papirius. In 326 BC, a young boy named Gaius Publilius, who was a guarantor to his father’s debt, became the nexus of Papirius. The boy was noted for his youth and beauty, and Papirius desired him sexually.  He tried to seduce Publilius with “lewd conversation,” but when the boy failed to respond, Papirius grew impatient and reminded the boy of his position as bond slave. When the boy again refused his forceful advances, Papirius had him stripped and lashed. The wounded boy ran into the street, and an outcry among the people led the consuls to convene the Senate, resulting in the Lex Poetelia Papiria, which forbade holding debtors in bondage for their debt and required instead the debtor’s property be used as collateral.

Eventually, all “indebted” people confined under the nexum contract were released, and nexum as a form of legal contract was ultimately forbidden, with the ancient historian Marcus Terentius Varro dating the abolition of nexum to 313 BC.  Poetelius and Livy date the abolition to 326 BC.

From the Roman legal point of view, to the lending of money and an ordinary contract, there seems to have been added a damnatio [damnation] by the lender, similar to the old forms of bequest [LEGATUM]: “a thousand asses” and “the scale of the air” as interest and its measurement.

The debt was termed nexumaes. The making of a contract was known as nexi datio, and the debtor was  nexum inire

The peculiarity of this form of contract was that the creditor did not need to bring a lawsuit to prove the existence of the debt: the debtor had already confessed his slavery and the bondage was ‘called from the air’ and became nexus am. [linked to the nexi]

As soon as the day fixed for repayment passed, the creditor could arrest him, take him before the praetor, and have him, along with the children in his power.

Raniere, self-described as the world’s smartest man, who graduated from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (but concealed from his followers that he graduated with a 2.26 GPA, having barely passed and failed many of the upper level math and science courses) seems to have taken this ancient and abolished practice into the 21st century, and even modeling the “debt contract” off of the cruel ancient Roman, Papirius, who was responsible for its abolition. Like Papirius, Raniere was allegedly obsessed with wth sex, and would use the damaging “collateral” he obtained from his “slaves” (nude pictures, false confessions to crimes and acts of moral turpitude) against his slaves in order to coerce them into sex, and their continued obligations, financial and otherwise, to the cult and to Raniere. When coercion failed and a Nxian wanted to leave, or defect, he or she  became, to Nxivm, a “fugitive slave.” In its arrest affidavit, the FBI alleges that Raniere’s partner and chief financial backer, Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman, worked with Raniere to “orchestrate” criminal complaints against a former slave who went public and detailed the abuse she endured within the cult.

Sexslavery and human experimentations financier, Clare Bronfman (r), with her legal muscle, Willam F. Savino (l)

An in-depth review of years of Bronfman/Raniere lawsuits and criminal complaints against ex-slaves suggests that the Bronfman/Raniere crime unit was able, with Bronfman’s millions, to turn the courts into oppressive machines to silence, bankrupt, and destroy the cult’s ex-slaves and others that they deemed to be “enemies” of NXIVM. In this regard, Bronfman used the courts to effectively become instruments of enforcing NXIVM’s own modern twist on the long since abolished fugitive-slave laws.

Keith Raniere is currently in federal custody pending his transfer to the Eastern District of New York, where he faces federal charges of sex trafficking and forced labor. Clare Bronfman’s Ethical Science Foundation was recently under investigation by the NY Attorney General for conducting illegal human experiments – although, sources say, the investigation may have been suspended in deference to DOJ’s pursuit of likely criminal charges for conspiracy, tax crimes and other charges related to human trafficking.

About the author

George Frobisher


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    A weekend retreat, for girls 12-18, at a secluded ranch, that will have self-improvement classes, workshops, and yoga.

    Hmmm… What does remind you of?

    Oh…but wait. KK HAD.NO.IDEA what was going on in NXIVM. No idea of any illegal activities. And no idea that Keith was a child rapist.

    Tell it to Judge sister. That crackling sound…is the sound of your career going up in flames. What’s left of it…

    And who recruited her cast mates, including Allie Whack? This gem of a human being.

    • This is the official statement from Kristin and Kendra about ‘Girls By Design’ posted on an old fan site (which no longer exists and was also posted in the comment section of an post on John Tighe’s old blog still accessible using the wayback machine) when some fans expressed some concern about their NXIVM association at the time:

      “Hi All,

      We have been reading up on the latest news and concerns from many of you in regards to what GBD is all about and what our intent with the company is. We really appreciate that you share our concerns in regards to the safely of teens. Please know that GBD is not affiliated with NXIVM or the Executive Success Programs. GBD is also not a part of 10C (the college project), A cappella Innovations or Juicy Peach.

      GBD has been an independent project in the works since it was a budding idea many years ago when Kristin came to face many challenges as a young woman in her career. This project is something that we are both very proud of and invested in. Our mission is clearly stated on our coming soon page; we want to create a place where all teen girls can come together to explore, express and create (projects) and realize their potential together.

      We have found very few supportive safe places online for girls to interact and participate. It’s our goal to have a cool, fun environment where teen girls go to spend time with friends, make new friends, get involved in projects, and proudly share their accomplishments with their family and friends.

      The financial model will be a traditional internet model with no membership fees and accessible to all :).

      We both sincerely hope this clears up any concerns you may have.

      Kristin and Kendra”

      • This statement shows that they were repeatedly warned about the cult. Also, how lacking in self-awareness/judgement they are when trying to convince people this is not NXIVM linked when everyone involved is from NXIVM. It’s ridiculous. ps I don’t agree with the attempts to link Kreuk to DOS, it is indeed defamation, but she still has a lot to answer for.

        • At the time, NXIVM was an MLM company that had been criticized with “cult-like” features. But it was also a legitimate company with a tax ID that also professed to teach executive (business) success, just like the many other similar companies that existed prior to and concurrently with it taught as well, e.g., Landmark Education. It is very possible that people could take courses with such a company and then take what they learn and try to apply it to a company that was entirely their own idea without it being affiliated with the former. Of course – in retrospect – with the revelation of Vanguard’s past sexual history with teen girls in 2012, it looks worse now than it did at the time. Even the girls who they were targeting were just criticizing its “cult” label and had no clue about Raniere’s past. But there was no way for all of them to have known that at the time. But once it became public knowledge that couldn’t be denied, Kristin left. I believe Kendra left a some years before her because she began to have and raise children.

          • There’s no evidence that Kristin left due to public revelations about Raniere except for speculation on the timing. Could have been as simple as a break up with her then boyfriend. At the moment we do not know why she left.

          • It is true that there is no verbal confirmation from Kristin’s mouth, but it has been reported multiple times as the reason in print. Whether this is the true reason is moot, but it is a likely possibility given Kristin’s value system and the current views she has expressed. I believe Kristin was still with her boy friend in December of 2012 when they went with some of their friends on an Italy trip together. Kristin keeps things so close to the chest it is not publicly known when they broke up.

          • It’s not moot. Erroneous reports have also linked her to DOS. It’s important to remain factual, not to conflate, link and speculate to give a person a certain gloss depending on whether you support or condemn them. Far too many inaccuracies pushed here and in the media. Also her real reasons for leaving may be informative down the line.

          • I haven’t seen any reports link her to DOS. I’ve seen sensationalized headlines but if you read the actual content of those articles carefully, none that I have read link her to DOS and it seems like the authors made sure not to. Many of them actually are considerate enough to disassociate her from DOS using the 2012 TU article revelation as reason for her departure.

            If and when her real reasons are revealed then it will settle all doubt. Well not all of it since some people still don’t believe her current statement. In the mean time, it’s the one of the more likely scenarios considering the timing of it.

        • “This statement shows that they were repeatedly warned about the cult. Also, how lacking in self-awareness/judgement they are when trying to convince people this is not NXIVM linked when everyone involved is from NXIVM. It’s ridiculous.”

          And I too have wondered why it is widely reported KK left the cult due to bad Media revelations when we have no info to support that. Or when she broke up with Hildreth–which is important because he stayed in the cult (and SOP) till 2017–so if KK was still with Hildreth then she still with NXIVM.

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