What Happens If The Legal Defense Trust Fund Runs Out Of Money?

By K R Claviger

One of the stranger aspects of the U.S. v. Raniere Et Al case is the fact that most, if not all, of the numerous defense attorneys are being paid out of the same pot of money (At last count, more than two dozen attorneys had already rolled up some billable hours on this case).

Although details have been hard to pin down, it has been widely speculated that just prior to being indicted, Clare Bronfman set up a $10 million trust fund to pay for her legal expenses – and those of her current co-defendants: i.e., Keith Raniere, Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman, Allison Mack, and Kathy Russell.

Based on the numerous motions that have already been filed by the defense attorneys in the case – and the multiple meetings that Raniere is having with his defense attorneys every week – it’s quite possible that over half of the legal trust fund has already been used up.

And there’s no sign that the current gaggle of defense attorneys is slowing down in terms of running up their billable hours. Just next week there are two more in-court meetings on the case – and those usually draw just about every member of the defense team plus a slew of their junior associates and paralegals who are just there to take notes and pad their own billable hours.

And don’t forget that there will undoubtedly be even more defense attorneys involved in this case if/when additional defendants are named in a superseding indictment. And assuming, of course, that the legal trust fund has been structured in such a way so as to accommodate more defendants, they’ll be hitting up that same tit as the original defendants.

So, with it appearing less and less likely that the trial is going to take place next March as scheduled – and with the defense attorneys getting more and more creative in terms of their Hail Mary motions – the question becomes “What happens if the legal trust fund runs out of money?”

Well, the answer is – as is so often the case in legal matters – it depends on several factors.

To begin with, the general rule is that a defense attorney in a criminal matter has to have the presiding judge’s permission to withdraw. In situations where one attorney is simply being replaced by another one – or there are multiple attorneys on the defense team and just one of them is withdrawing – getting that permission is no big deal.

But that, of course, is not what we’re looking at in this case.

What if all the defense attorneys in this case simultaneously submit motions to withdraw because the legal trust fund is out of money? Will the judge simply let them ride off into the sunset, laughing their asses off at just how much they made on this case – and how fast they made $10 million disappear?

That’s where those “several factors” come into play.

If this kind of situation were to occur just before the trial was going to start, the judge will very likely require at least some of them to keep working on the case regardless of the fact that they’re no longer getting paid for their work (You can only imagine just how motivated they’ll be).

But if such motions to withdraw were to be filed well before the start of the trial, the judge very well might grant them. It’s entirely up to him.

So, then what?

The simple answer is that each defendant will be likely be assigned a public defender or a federal defender.

And to paraphrase Alanis Morissette, “Wouldn’t that be ironic?”

For those of you who think that Clarebear can just dump in another $10 million to keep the party going, that’s not going to happen. That’s because she was so anxious to protect what she has left from the more than half-a-billion dollars she inherited from dear old Dad, she basically made it impossible for any of her remaining money to be used for that purpose.

And what about sister Sara? Will she be willing to toss in some of her money to protect her sister and the rest of the defendants? Probably not – especially since doing so may very well lead to her getting her own seat at the defense table.

Maybe a GoFundMe fundraiser? I’m sure Ben Meyers and Steve Ose could take care of all the necessary work to set one up.

Or maybe just a bunch of public defenders doing the best they can to keep The Vanguard and his cohorts from going bye-bye…

About the author

K.R. Claviger


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  • What happens to the money NXIVM made? Can it be used toward the defense? Or can it/is it claimed by the government? This is probably a dumb question, but it’s been bothering me.

  • On similar cases I’ve seen the courts force certain defense attorneys to remain as public defenders. Someone will cover Clare, there’s a lot of Bronfmans out there who would like to keep the name out of the news where possible even if they don’t seem willing to claim her as a family member. Personally I feel empathy for the extended Bronfman family.

    The courts aren’t going to feel much sorrow for attorneys that wipe out 10 million plus prior to trial and then want out.

    As we all wait for superseding indictments I think we are in agreement there isn’t going to be a trial In March. And if they separate the cases it will be 2020.

    A relative of mine earning good money selling bad coke had the local pitbull attorney where I live and when the money ran out she put him to work. He painted her house. Became her gardiner and as her nickname was the ice queen, speculation was he supplied her with good coke. Aside from the coke I know for sure he did the other work and always wondered if that was legal.

    The 10 million fund set up for Rainere initially was just for him wasn’t it? This was set up prior to Clares indictment.

    She must have set up a separate one for herself prior to her arrest. I never read anything that said all 6 defendants were using the fund set up for their Vangaurd. Nor that she was paying for all other defendants legal fees. Laurens Arizona attorneys deserves more attention!

    Here’s a project for anyone interested. Find out what each attorney bills per hour. Do they have a public report on what is billed to the trust fund regularly?

    The exact number of attorneys and what about Nxivm attorneys such as Michael Sullivan. Who is paying him, does Nxivm still have money? Are they reimbursing those who prepaid for classes that were canceled?

    Aside from attorneys what type of experts can we expect from defense and what cost to bring them and pay them for their testimonies?

    How many legal aides are out there going through reams of paperwork for the attorneys? 10 to 12 hours a day.

    I’m not the right person for this job, I hope there are some out there who take this on, you never know what you might find out.

    • Heather Anne,
      You certainly have so much to say and I always look forward to your comments and insights, along with Heidi’s. Would be so nice to see you both as featured contributing writers because you have so much to share. Just an idea.

  • I simply can’t imagine the trust fund running out of money. Would be fun to watch if it did, though.

    What would make me happy is to see the government triumph despite millions and millions spent trying to thwart the process. Money alone should not get a person off of serious charges.

  • I think this whole story is backwards. Clare has never put much emphasis on money, she let Raniere take as much as he wanted. Clare is all about saving the world, not her money. Besides, if she doesn’t wiggle out of the trouble she’s in, it won’t do her much good for quite a while. Also, I don’t see how Sara giving Clare money to defend herself is illegal. In fact, Sara may see see Clare being found innocent as a barrier to her being prosecuted.

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.” In addition, he was credited in the Starz docuseries 'Seduced' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

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 premieres on May 22, 2022.

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Contact Frank with tips or for help.
Phone / Text: (305) 783-7083
Email: frankparlato@gmail.com