Court Hearing: Trust fund almost out of money – attorneys questioned by judge – what will they do when trust fund runs out?

Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, the sentencing judge for Keith Raniere

A hearing was held today in Brooklyn federal court in the Nxivm case – called for by Judge Nicholas Garaufis – on the status of the Bronfman-funded trust fund that has been paying lawyers for the Nxivm defendants, except Clare Bronfman.

During the hearing, the public learned that the Nxivm trust fund was almost out of money.  In fact, 75 percent of the money has already been spent on attorneys – and the case is months away from trial.

Judge Garaufis told the attorneys that because there will likely not be enough money to pay them through trial, they must inform him about what they planned to do.

Keith Raniere’s attorney, Marc Agnifilo, rose and said he was in it for the long haul – and, speaking for the others, he believed they were in it until the end as well.

The judge asked how he knew that – and ordered each attorney to submit an ex-parte letter to indicate what their plans are from now until the end of the trial.

Ex -parte means that their letter will be sealed and seen only by the judge and not shared with the prosecutor, the public or the other defendants’ attorneys.

The judge reminded Agnifilo that he was in a different position than the other lawyers in the case because Agnifilo received a large retainer when he was first engaged. Such retainers, paid in advance, are usually replenished monthly.  I estimate Agnifilo’s initial retainer was between $1 and $3 million, which gives him a cushion against the day when the trust runs dry.

The other Nxivm attorneys are billing as they go, presumably on a monthly basis.

Aginfilo acknowledged he was paid an advance retainer, but said that by the time the trial was concluded, he would have to work many hours unpaid.  He said he would still represent Raniere through trial and suggested the other lawyers would also.

The judge, unwilling to take the verbal assurance of any of the lawyers, asked each, including Agnifilo, to put in writing their position as to whether going forward, when they are no longer getting paid, they would continue to represent their clients.

Clare’s attorneys will not be required to put in writing their position since they are being paid directly by Clare.

While the Nxivm defense trust fund could be replenished, it appears Clare does not have the ability to use her personal trust fund money to replenish the trust for the Nxivm defendants. Shortly before she was indicted, she set up a personal trust fund to protect her assets.

At the same time, she also set up the Nxvm defense trust to pay for Raniere and Allison Mack, and other defendants’ that she anticipated might be indicted.

The terms of Clare’s personal trust forbid her trustees to use the money to pay for anything other than her expenses. Thus, they cannot use her personal trust to replenish the Nxivm defense trust.

Based on a number of factors, I estimate Clare put in from $5 to $10 million in the Nxivm defense trust. It is not known if other people contributed to the trust.

So, here is where we stand: 75 percent of the defense trust fund is gone and we are only in January. Clearly, there will be no money by the time trial begins  – which is currently scheduled for April 29th but is likely to be postponed if there is a new superseding indictment.

My prediction is that Agnifilo, as he promised, will stay in through trial.  Most of the other attorneys will stay in for a while at least.  But if the superseding indictment comes in and there are new charges and new defendants, there will no money to pay for those who are newly indicted, some of whom have already retained attorneys.

As for the present defendants, suppose, for example, Lauren Salzman and Allison Mack get charged with 10 more counts. Will their attorneys hang in there?

This is why the judge needs a plan from each of them.

Overall, this matter is of deep concern for the judge. If the defendants are running out of money, he has to protect his trial. He has to get through this trial – and it has to withstand appeal.

If there is going to be a transition of lawyers, he wants it to be an orderly transition.

Unless Sara Bronfman-Igtet or Carlos Salinas – or some other Nxivm loyalists – put up some money, I suspect the Nxivm defendants are going to wind up with taxpayer-funded, assigned counsel.

In fact, I would not be surprised if the judge assigns these high-priced attorneys to be the assigned counsel for their clients. They will get paid at assigned counsel rates when the trust fund is depleted – which is probably a quarter [a tenth for Agnifilo] of their normal rates.

This might be the best solution. The attorneys will get something, instead of working for free, and remain on the case.

Since they already are familiar with the case, it might offer the best possible solution to what has become what some might call an Executive Success conundrum.




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Frank Parlato


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  • […] In an earlier post, we reported that the Trust Fund that was set up by Clare Bronfman to pay for attorneys to represent her co-defendants in the NXIVM slave cult criminal case – and for attorneys to represent witnesses who are willing to plead the Fifth Amendment rather than answer questions posed by prosecutors in front of a Grand Jury – was rapidly running out of funds. […]

  • […] In an earlier post, we reported that the Trust Fund that was set up by Clare Bronfman to pay for attorneys to represent her co-defendants in the NXIVM slave cult criminal case – and for attorneys to represent witnesses who are willing to plead the Fifth Amendment rather than answer questions posed by prosecutors in front of a Grand Jury – was rapidly running out of funds. […]

  • This whole topic of the “Legal Trust” running dry, while certainly interesting and worthy of Frank’s commentary, is mostly just a NOTHING BURGER that won’t impact any of the main lawyers.

    Nobody’s gonna have to take a pay cut.

    Firstly, Clare does NOT have every penny of her estate inside a “trust” that bars her from spending it on legal fees. She only has $100 Million in such a trust.

    Clare has other assets that can be used to easily borrow $15 million cash, if need be. Even using her own statements made to the court, her total net worth is over $200 million, not $100 million.

    …and even if the judge ‘bans’ Clare from using her own money to refill the Trust’s coffers once it runs dry, there’s no law against a 3rd party (like Sara Bronfman from Europe) creating a new “irrevocable” trust to pay these same lawyers in the future.

    Even if the judge were to legally “ban” Sara Bronfman from paying any lawyers (which I don’t think he can since she’s not a defendant) she could simply find another 3rd party to create an irrevocable trust using funds which she could give him.

    If not Sara, then some other person from outside the US could create a Trust to reimburse these lawyers.

    In fact, they don’t even need to officially create another “Trust” to pay anybody. A wealthy NXIVM benefactor could simply whisper a private “verbal guarantee” that they’ll reimburse all legal expenses AFTER the trial is over.

    I suppose the judge could require any such private whispers to be made known to him, but I don’t see how he can really enforce that.

    Kinda like the Cuban Missile Crisis, where Kennedy whispered a private promise to get rid of the missiles in Turkey six months after the crisis is over. LOL.

    These lawyers are likely getting paid one way or another, in my opinion.

    If not now, then certainly after the trial is over.

    NXIVM personnel trust their benefactors to stand by them.

  • I would be very surprised if more than one lawyer could be paid per defendant at court rates, but perhaps ACDAWBE or Omar could weigh in on that.
    I wonder if the reason Lauren has Arizona lawyers is because she is the one who can harm the Salinas family, and, if that were the case, I expect their bills would continue to be paid by them when the trust runs out. Like any sensible person, why offer when Clare is footing the bill ??
    Allison Mack’s lawyers could probably figure out a way to access her SAG funds.
    Really, it’s only Kathy Russell who would wind up losing her lawyer.
    Let’s talk about the really good news here, which is there won’t be any funds for the new defendants, and I expect anybody who hasn’t already flipped to become a defendant with the next superseding indictment.

  • Nancy’s got millions, she could pay for herself and Lauren’s defense. But she can’t.
    Then she would have to explain where the money comes from. And she doesn’t want
    that. She wants to keep her millions saved aside.

    • Shady defense lawyers don’t care where money comes from. They can deposit anything to their IOLTA account, and are protected by privilege unless their dumb client blabs.

  • You can bet the Judge isn’t going to pay for defendants to have more than one attorney each if the tax payers are flipping the bill.

  • Many years ago Mr. Charles Dickens penned Bleak House and centered the plot around a court case that was dragged on for years until the entire fortune was “absorbed in costs.” it is quite an excellent book.

  • 25% may as well be $0. Stand by for maximum billable hours from each lawyer until the trust fund is depleted. Each of them is going to want to minimize their loss when they are told the trust fund is empty and they have to work for the reduced fee.

  • Carlos Salinas Estimated Net Worth 17.4 Billion Dollars

    CARLOS SALINAS DE GORTARI NET WORTH Carlos Salinas de Gortari was bornon April 3, 1948 in Mexico. Mexican politician who served as the President of Mexico from 1988 to 1994. During his presidency, he negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement and privatized both the national banking system and phone company.
    Carlos Salinas de Gortari is a member of World Leader

    Carlos Slim Estimated Net Worth 52 Billion Dollars
    CARLOS SLIM NET WORTH Carlos Slim was bornon January 28, 1940 in Mexico City, Mexico. Mexican business magnate and philanthropist who was named the richest person in the world from 2010 until 2013.
    Carlos Slim is a member of Entrepreneur

    Edgar Bronfman Senior Estimated Net Worth 2.6 billion dollars
    To be divided among a widow and seven children

    EDGAR BRONFMAN SR NET WORTH Edgar Bronfman Sr was bornon June 20, 1929 in United States. Thrice-divorced Edgar Bronfman Sr. is the son of a Russian immigrant who used to smuggle whiskey across the US-Canadian border in the Prohibition era. Edgar later ran the U.S. arm of liquor giant Joseph E. Seagram & Sons while brother Charles took care of operations in Canada. Son Edgar Jr. lost billions for the family when he sold Seagram’s lucrative stake in DuPont chemicals to buy film studio MCA/Universal and music business Polygram. The merger was disastrous; the Bronfmans sold the rest of their Seagram stake to Vivendi in 2000 for $34 billion. More recent family woes: daughters Clare and Sara are followers of the man Forbes called “the world’s strangest executive coach” in a 2003 cover story. Court documents claim the two have given Keith Raniere, leader of ‘self-awareness’ group NXIVM, millions over the years.
    Edgar Bronfman Sr is a member of Service


  • If the Trust Fund runs out of money, the Judge may not necessarily appoint the current attorneys to represent the Defendants.

    The Court already has a list of appointed counsel through the CJA (Criminal Justice Act) program in the Brooklyn/New York area. Those attorneys will be picked first.

    More importantly, the new attorneys will have a very CANDID discussion with their clients and let them know their chances of success are minimal. Now, it is up to the client to decide if they want to go to trial or not. But, the attorney can lay it out so there are no surprises.

    The Judge is also very meticulous, so that the Defendants won’t be able to raise an Inadequate Assistance of Counsel Defense. By asking the Defendants and the attorneys on the record, the Judge can establish and memorialize the fact that the Defendants are aware the funds are about to run out.

    So, how much exactly was in the Trust Fund to start? $3 Million? $5 Million? Who knows

  • Keith does not need the trust money. He has Pam’s money she left him if the dirty slimy production let’s him use it. He does not need free help. “ A man who works for others without payment is a slave. I do not recognize anybody’s right to one minute of my life. “ Keith Raniere.

    • Pea, Are you suggesting that the Court approve the looting of Pam Cafritz’s estate for the benefit of Keith Raniere?
      Assuming that Cafritz died intestate (without a will) that money belongs to Cafritz’s mother and siblings, her next of kin, not as a cash kitty for Raniere and Clare Bronfman to pilfer.
      Haven’t Raniere and Bronfman looted enough money from Pam Cafritz?
      Would Raniere and Bronfman steal the nickels off of a dead woman’s eyes?

      “Raniere and Bronfman participated in an identity theft conspiracy involving the use of credit card and banking information belonging to one of Raniere’s sexual partners [Pam Cafritz] after her death in November 2016. Bronfman sent Raniere regular emails documenting expenses charged to the woman’s credit card for Raniere’s “review and approval.” Those expenses included payments to a chiropractor for Raniere’s benefit, as well as thousands of dollars’ worth of clothing and shoe purchases for the mother of Raniere’s child.”
      Government sums up non- sex-trafficking charges in everyday language

    • “A man who lives off the work and wealth of others is a parasite.” Just Me

      “A man who claims illness to manipulate innocents into sleeping with him is a manipulative user.” Just Me

      “A man who seduces underage women is a rapist.” Just Me

      “A man who continually harasses those who try to walk peaceably away from him is a vindictive, childish, narcissistic loser.” Just Me

      “A man who restricts the freedoms of others will eventually find himself in the same damn boat – and deservedly so.” Just Me too

      “A fool who continues to follow a fool and quote him as inspiration is pretty much the picture of a fuckwit idiot.” Just Me to you, Pea On You

        • Thank you – wouldn’t have recognized that one. KAR tried to get me to read Ayn Rand – just wasn’t my thing. Just typical though that proverbs from the Bible of Vanguard are just stolen moments from others’ work. Next delusion will probably involve minions sneaking through bookstores and libraries with Vanguard stickers to paste over all the targeted author names. Better get the hacker army fired up to handle digital copies.

          • lol Anonymous – what a polite demand for information. And you require this information because…? And you feel you have a right to it because…?

          • I was just asking for it, I wasn’t demanding it. You mentioned that KAR tried to get you to read Ayn Rand, so I figured you were in the cult for a while and just wanted to know when you joined and for how long you stayed since you stated you interacted with him, and most people who are aware of NXIVM know “His Majesty” doesn’t grant personal access to just to anyone unless you have something he wants.

          • once upon a time, I had something he wanted. Unless people offer specifics on their history, I suggest you leave it be. Questions like yours sound like fishing expeditions, and if you learn nothing else from KAR, you learn to be wary.

    • Even if he had all the money in the world, that makes no difference. He’s gonna rot in jail for long long time.

    • Pea, you, and Keith are plagarizing Ayn Rand.
      Stop being a thief.
      Did you not think there are intelligent people, such as myself, who know this stuff and will not call you out for theft?
      At least be original.
      Even the phrase “he who has the most joy wins” was stolen from Scientology.
      Then again, actress that you are, all you are required to do is speak words someone else wrote and try not to bump into the furnitute.
      Boy, Keith got one thing right when he went after mindless actresses.

    • “A man who works for others without payment is a slave. I do not recognize anybody’s right to one minute of my life. “ Keith Raniere.
      No mention of women.

  • Frank, is it normal procedure for the judge to ask defense attorneys what their plans are if their clients can’t pay or is the NXIVM case so unusual because a trust was initially set up to pay the attorneys? and this solution: “In fact, I would not be surprised if the judge assigns these high-priced attorneys to be the assigned counsel for their clients. They will get paid at assigned counsel rates when the trust fund is depleted which is a quarter [a tenth for Agnifilo] of their normal rates.” not only makes the most sense but ensures that none of the defendants can hold up the trial while their new counsel gets up to speed with the case..

    • The current counsel would have to agree to that, I assume, Lena. Something tells me this group won’t take a 70% pay slash to represent the loyal NX losers, especially not at risk of pissing off Mexico’s PRI party comeback prince or jester, Emi & Alejandro. And, it could be better for some defendants if they don’t.

  • You gotta LOVE Gaurufis. “Letters of Intent” — brilliant and fair!

    …What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on a computer screen and witness the looks on the faces of these humble servants of justice as they compose their noble missives extolling their undying commitment to their clients’ welfare. …Until Aggie’s retainer is spent, at least.

    Perhaps they’ll voluntarily put up some “collateral” to back their vows to labor without pay? Or be permitted to indulge in the fruits of Raniere’s Garden of Eden and have sex with him, forsaking all others unless he orders it? Or trade billable hours for a free “KAR” empowerment branding?

    Just too bad we don’t get to hear from Burke & Sandweg on this matter. Except anonymously on FR.

    • “Perhaps they’ll voluntarily put up some “collateral” to back their vows to labor without pay?”

      Please Heidi, don’t tell me you want to see collateral from Marc Agnifilo in the form of nude photos!

    • I think they’re already all broke except for Clare who spent 90% of her 100+M. Funny thing is that it was all lost due to unsuccessful executive decisions in their business programs lmao. Most of them had tens of thousands and it was easily consumed by training and failed ventures.

      • again, if the theme is not allison mack it seems that the shadow returns to his cave looking for new reasons to show the world why we should all join his club (hatred / love) by allison

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.

IMDb — Frank Parlato,_Jr.

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