One of the interesting issues this post leaves unanswered is whether the money Clare and Sara Bronfman provided to cover the commodities trading losses was essentially a gift – even if they were initially structured as loans, but then not repaid – and, thus, should have been declared as such for tax purposes, by whoever received it (It seems to have essentially been provided to Raniere, but put through a corporation [First Principles] controlled by Salzman).
I did a quick search about the commodities issues to see what other sources of information there might be and found a fair bit of the documentation in Precision v. Plyam which is available online, such as a declaration by Bouchey in which she refers to the Bronfman money as “loans” (in quotes in the original):
She also notes that even as Raniere was continually losing money, he frequently made promises that “it would all come back” – classic problem gambler behavior.
There’s also an article that reports this:
”It was a very tight, tight constricted circle because what would the NXIVM community think if they found out that the leader of the mission was irresponsibly gambling millions and millions and millions of dollars and losing it?” Bouchey said in sworn testimony. “This would shake the confidence of many people. … It looked crazy. It was crazy.”
Raniere told them the losses were due to outside forces out to foil him, such as Edgar Bronfman, the father of the sisters, Bouchey testified. Raniere, she said, chalked up the losses as a learning experience that could help with dealing with world markets.
“Keith wanted to have our own country, our own currency and market, our own way of doing things,” she said. “So he needed to learn how the cheaters in the world markets worked.”‘
The Losses Were Staggering
According to Suzanna Andrews’ 2010 Vanity Fair article The Heiresses and the Cult, “In early 2005, they [The Bronfman sisters] began covering Raniere’s losses in the commodities market. According to Bouchey, Raniere believed that he had come up with a mathematical formula that would enable him to make a killing. He’d already lost nearly $7 million on his commodities bets several years before. But, according to a declaration by Yuri Plyam, Raniere’s Los Angeles-based commodities broker, with the Bronfmans on board, he began to trade ‘with the same extreme pattern’ except that the trading positions were much bigger.
“From January 2005 to late 2007, according to court filings, Raniere, trading through First Principles, a company registered in Nancy Salzman’s name, would lose close to $70 million—and the Bronfmans would cover $65.6 million of it. ”
It sounds like he lost more than just the Bronfmans’ money, on more than one occasion – so that may have been what happened to any profits from NXIVM’s heyday.
There’s also a story by Claviger that explains the financial dealings in detail, but boils down to this:
“The bottom line is that Raniere lost $1.2 million of Bouchey’s money, $5 million of [Michael] Sutton’s money, and $65 million of the Bronfman sisters’ money because he had no idea what the fuck he was doing. It’s really as simple as that.”
The fact that this ended up being part of a lawsuit with the commodities broker Plyam, who was involved in the real estate deals, also makes it unlikely that there was any unaccounted for money.
There’s also this Frank Report account that details some earlier losses as well. Raniere starts to sound like a gambling addict who was always losing at the commodities market, and never learning his lesson but, instead, going back again and again with the typical delusional belief that he would somehow start coming out ahead:
And, as Frank points out in that last piece, the guy who couldn’t stop losing millions at commodities trading, was someone who claimed to be one of the world’s top problem solvers!
You can read the cover of the book in some of the better photos of the above picture. The title is How to Win at Gambling by Avery Cardoza.
It talks about winning at games besides just blackjack and poker, the only two where a player can gain an actual advantage, through card counting, so it’s obviously gamblers’ delusion, if not casino industry propaganda.
In poker, the ability to read facial and behavioral clues counts as well; interestingly, author Maria Konnikova, who wrote the book “The Confidence Game: Why We Fall For It” (about scams, but very relevant to the psychology of cults as well) and learned a lot in the process of researching how to tell when people are lying (most of us think we are good at it but are actually not, which is why we fall for it), has gone on to a successful career as a professional poker player.
I highly recommend reading Konnikova; her book is very readable besides being well based on modern cognitive and behavioral research. She has a number of YouTube videos, including this one about her book:
A Sex Addict Too
The New York Observer wrote back in 2010, “Sixty-five million dollars alone bankrolled what Ms. Bouchey and Mr. Raniere’s former commodities broker Yuri Plyam describe in court documents as a pathological day-trading addiction.”
Raniere was also arguably a sex addict and brought himself to ruin with that, too.
Did Raniere Stash Any Money Away?
Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard was a certain type of wealth hoarder who just wants to have the money rather than necessarily enjoying the trappings of wealth. He died in a motor home, though a top of the line one – but there were still all sorts of paper trails, and testimony from defectors, making it abundantly clear that he had vast sums at his disposal even if he wasn’t obviously enjoying the benefits.
If Raniere had been smart enough to calculatedly stash away a bunch of money, he’d have gone somewhere that had no extradition treaty with the US to enjoy it, not to Mexico.
These sorts of people seem to almost always have a sort of gambler’s mentality that leaves them blind to considering the possibility of going bust and having to deal with the consequences of it, and so they almost never have a contingency plan – Robert Vesco in the 1970s is the most recent case I can think of, and even then he didn’t really pull it off and ended up dying in prison.