On January 31, 2010, James Odato for the Albany Times Union wrote a story entitled “Court documents claim NXIVM is a ‘cult’”. [subheadline “Lawsuit suggests leader Keith Raniere lost millions from Bronfman fortune in trading system”]
The story is still available online with Rick Ross’ Cult Education website. But I believe the comments are no longer available [If I am wrong about that and someone finds them online, please let me know.]
The comment section – which I think is important to preserve online – are fascinating because they reveal what people – mostly locals in the Albany area – had to say about their local newspaper’s report on their local cult.
We see from the comments that there are a number of people who were wise to Keith Raniere even then. There are some who predicted he would one day go to prison and others that called [futilely] for law enforcement to investigate him and Nxivm.
At least one commenter was a supporter – I suspect it was James Del Negro – who went by the moniker ‘Dash”
My good friend Will Diamond – who claims his wife was raped by Del Negro [Del Negro claims the opposite – that he was raped by his wife ] made the last and final comment.
I think these comments should be preserved and understood in the context of the time. It was early 2010. It was two full years before the Times Union came out with their expose the Secrets of Nxivm – where they revealed Raniere’s sexual deviancy and desire for underage girls.
This was a time when Nxivm was not known outside of the local area and they seemed to have a Teflon quality with local law enforcement – a quality that endures to this day.
The story that sparked the comments we are archiving below Court documents claim NXIVM is a ‘cult’ in brief revealed:
- Documents filed in a lawsuit claim that NXIVM is actually a cult whose leader is a compulsive gambler and investor who risks other people’s money — especially that of a pair of wealthy sisters tapped for about $100 million.
- A court dispute in Los Angeles County, Calif., involves a $26 million real estate deal gone sour.
- Court documents claim Raniere “is the absolute leader of a cult called NXIVM” who “exercised complete control” over heiresses to the Seagram Company liquor fortune, Sara and Clare Bronfman
- They have been bankrolling Raniere’s investments and his substantial legal fees, court documents say.
- Accusations in the Jan. 11  filing in California are “salacious” and “malicious” and filled with false statements, said Robert D. Crockett, a lawyer representing the Bronfman sisters. He said NXIVM is not a cult.
- A deposition from Barbara Bouchey revealed she gave Raniere $1.7 million starting around 2000 so he could test his formula for investing in the commodities market.
- Bouchey alleges Raniere was a compulsive gambler on the commodities market and first lost $1.7 million in Bouchey’s funds before turning to the Bronfmans.
- Raniere touted himself as one of the world’s greatest intellects and had devised a mathematical solution that would be successful in commodities trading.
- At one point, Raniere directed Nancy Salzman to counsel Bouchey to clear her of negative thoughts so that the market would not keep crashing.
- “It was very tight, tight constricted circle [that kept Raniere’s losses secret] 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.”
Crockett said the Bronfman sisters made the commodities investments, not Raniere, by loaning $65 million to an entity called First Principles LLC, whose sole stockholder was Salzman. “Mr. Raniere was giving the Bronfmans advice on what positions to take with their money,” he said. He said it is not unusual for someone to claim he has a system to beat the market and for that system to fail.
- The Bronfmans, he said, are not under Raniere’s control. “They are enamored with his ethical pursuits and his business pursuit,” he said. “We’re talking about people who have hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in speculative and non-speculative ventures.”
The story got some 33 comments total.
Here they are in full – for archival purposes. However, I enjoyed reading them and I hope readers will too:
I spent a few days with them one summer, so I have some perspective on this.
The dictionary defines a cult as “a system of veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure.” The program without question presupposes a supra human status for Raniere and Salzman, who went by the moniker of “Vanguard.” Ranier was said to have the highest recorded IQ, and worthy of only the highest respect. You couldn’t even meet him until after the course and then only if it were the right moment.
The long days of “training” have the affect of breaking down your individuality, finding your emotional weaknesses, probing them until the person feels hopeless, and then leading them up and into the light of what they call “integration.” When one is integrated there are no doubts any longer about the program. It all fits. Everyone who “gets it” shares a common bond, and the bliss they share is evident. To me, it looked, and felt like a simple psychological form of waterboarding.
The process toward enlightenment was a long one though. You had to stay for more programming, at sometimes fantastic cost. You got the feeling that the price was not fixed per se, but as much as they thought you could pay. I won’t tell you what I sunk. It makes me sick to think about it.
From what we read in the TU, it seems that Ranier is mostly preoccupied with getting rich. Guess that puts him up there with such holy men as Willie Sutton. I’ve no doubt that he also fancies himself as spirit-led, but so did Jim Jones. He had his own country, just like Ranier wants to do. But seems that Jonestown had something bad in the water.
I’m glad that it seems that somebody is putting a stop to Ranier and Saltzman before they go beyond mere theft and con artistry and start to distribute the Kool-Aid to their sad followers.
Comment by Antisthenes Kunosarges — February 1st, 2010 @ 12:29 pm
Raniere is clearly a skilled manipulator but that’s about it. The Bronfman’s really ought to consider new ventures…their money could be much better spent.
Comment by Maybe — February 1st, 2010 @ 12:30 pm
Any organization that is based on faith in the ability of someone to deliver a product they do not possess, for a portion of their wealth (say a fixed percentage, like 10%) should be classified as a cult and treated with the respect they deserve, None.
Comment by iknowtruthismine — February 1st, 2010 @ 12:53 pm
Antisthenes Kunosarges is dead on accurate. NXIVM/JNESS/WEFC etc are cults.
Comment by CAD — February 1st, 2010 @ 1:28 pm
Five or six years ago, I was urged to check this group out, by a friend who had been to a few sessions. I was looking to improve myself and my financial situation, so I attended an Introductory-type meeting. I heard about all the corporate groups around the country who were coming to Albany for this very special training, and vaguely learned how it could help me. What I remember the most is that it cost thousands of dollars, which made it impossible for me to “join” – but they were relentless in telling me how important it was to borrow the money – whatever I had to do – because it was so worth it. Luckily, I stood my ground and was honest about my inability to pay(who is going to loan a person money for something like this that is a gamble, and not even really understood?), and they went on and on and on (and on) about how much they knew I would benefit by taking their course – after all, they were SO SUCCESSFULL!
Well, apparently not successful enough to give people payment options – they needed the thousands up front. Anyone who wants you to take their course so badly can help make that possible. I am glad that I smelled something fishy and didn’t get involved.
Comment by Glad I Didn’t — February 1st, 2010 @ 1:39 pm
This has been going on for a long time. Vanguard and Prefect…imagine the amount of self control it takes to ask people to call you that and keep a straight face.
The highest recorded IQ? Did you know that this was based on a test he himself created? Who else would be smart enough to test him…
But seriously, if you have ever met anyone from this organization, you realize that it is a very serious cult. Criticism is redirected as persecution….people seem in physical discomfort when confronted with any serious contention…they are full of wacky world theories….and it seems that they have not even asked themselves serious questions…they have just swallowed all of this whole..
I love the part about.. if i am so smart, i can figure out the markets…and when I am worse than random… its because secret forces are conspiring against me…and…when that seems patently ridiculous….
well……um….its a learning experience…
any idiot knows that you don’t tell people that you are teaching them something when you know nothing about it…
if you needed a learning experience, your stupid system should have worked with tens of thousands of dollars….
but maybe you really did need to learn….no one respects the flame quite like the fool whose badly burned…
Consumer Buyline anyone? And did he ever pay off that 50k he owed the attorney general out of the Bronfman millions?
PS…Its funny how everyone keeps mum until they don’t get their cut.
Comment by DonnyBradshaw — February 1st, 2010 @ 2:11 pm
A cult not yet. You cannot fault a man for being convincing and people want to give him their money that is not a crime. We may not like his actionS but only god can judge him he has committed no crime.
Comment by PARSON — February 1st, 2010 @ 2:34 pm
I have to say, I WAS a big fan of the Dahli Lama until he recognized Raniere, then I lost total respect for him. The accusations against him and his cult have been known for years, yet still the Dahli honored him. It makes me sick. It’s time to stop them before they drag down more good people.
And by the way Antisthenes Kunosarges, Jim Jones made his people drink Flavor-aid, not Kool-aid, let’s stop putting the hate on the Kool-Aid man, oh yeah!
Comment by Jango Davis — February 1st, 2010 @ 3:16 pm
Maybe they should be in jail with Madoff. The Bronfman’s however should hire someone with some sense to help manage their eccentric investments. Don’t know if they were conned as much as they are eccentric.
Comment by jakester — February 1st, 2010 @ 3:19 pm
What a shame that so many people, over so many years, have been taken in by Mr. Raniere’s various schemes.
RickRoss.com, a web site that exposes cults, refers to three elements that make up a cult:
1. A charismatic leader, who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose power.
2. A process [is in use] call[ed] coercive persuasion or thought reform.
3. Economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.
The same site refers to three criteria in analyzing whether a cult is destructive:
1. The origin of the group and role of the leader.
2. The power structure, or relationship between the leader[s] and the followers.
3. The use of a coordinated program of persuasion, which is called thought reform [or more commonly, ‘brainwashing’”].
Using these criteria, it certainly looks to me like NXIVM is a cult, and very likely a destructive one. Over the years, stories like this (http://www.cultnews.com/?p=1548), this (http://www.rickross.com/reference/esp/esp31.html) and this (http://www.rickross.com/reference/esp/esp52.html) raise a host of troubling questions about the nature and purposes of the organization.
Comment by Reality40 — February 1st, 2010 @ 3:23 pm
“Any organization that is based on faith in the ability of someone to deliver a product they do not possess, for a portion of their wealth (say a fixed percentage, like 10%) should be classified as a cult and treated with the respect they deserve, None.”
Agreed; however, a point of clarification is necessary, given the clear implication behind those words: Christian churches are not “based on faith in the ability of someone to deliver a product they do not possess.” They are based on faith in Jesus Christ to deliver on His promises to us, which are (a) true; and (b) not a product. Furthermore, I have never heard of a Christian church that requires anyone to donate anything, let alone some fixed portion of their money. Christians who give away a portion of what we earn to a church or to other Christian organizations (say 10%, or more) do so out of gratitude to God for His blessings and a desire to contribute to God’s work and to reach out to those in need.
Comment by Reality40 — February 1st, 2010 @ 3:27 pm
fascinating commentary #1–but if you were able (was it immediately?) to see through it, how does one explain people like the Bronfman sisters? Are they just dumb as dirt? Help me out here people because I just do not understand it.
Comment by countrygirl — February 1st, 2010 @ 3:49 pm
You should not judge Keith if you do not know him. He has the highest IQ in the United States. He is the Vanguard and his IQ allows him to see things differently and more clearly than any of us. We are just misunderstanding the meaning of the Matrix. When they come to pick us up, we’ll all have on our nike sneakers at the new Jackson Compound in Troy and he will show us the way.
Comment by ThEspian — February 1st, 2010 @ 3:50 pm
I can’t believe people fall for this guy and his whole sham.
Comment by wackyithink — February 1st, 2010 @ 5:28 pm
It was bound to happen that one follower made their way on the board and defended this LOON!
Smartest man in the world? And what does the smartest man do with such intelligence? Does he come up with the theory of relativity? Discover the idea of gravity, create the atom bomb? paint a masterpiece? Learn to spell correctly without spell check?
Plays the market and blows through millions.
After all someone with such a high IQ would probably be able to realize that money is just a material item, money buys more material items, and after all material items are only coveted by those who are weak and can not overcome greed and realize material items need to be shed to achive enlightenment!
He is a cult leader, just like Scientology.
and once all the people have no more of their 10% to give or start to see the fraud they are, they will move on to a more reliable cultish fraud- DR PHIL!!!!!!!
Comment by Dale Gribble — February 1st, 2010 @ 8:30 pm
One of the core elements they preach is “world ethics”, but consider this:
How ethical can you be when you move into a residential neighborhood and hold business meetings and overnite sessions in a home that is zoned as a single family residence?
How ethical can you be when your finance arm lists their business address as a single family residence in a neighborhood that is not zoned for business use?
How ethical can you be when you’re single family residence has a commercial recording studio used to develop material that is used in the business of preaching “world ethics”?
How ethical can you be when you flagrantly ignore municipal regulations that prohibit parking on a residential street during certain periods of time?
How ethical can you be when your members roll through neighborhood stop signs, exceed speed limits and endanger the lives of children in the neighborhood.
Their ethics are do as I say, not as I do.
Comment by Watchwhattheydo — February 1st, 2010 @ 9:10 pm
Hey, ThEspian, I really hope you’re kidding. If not I have a few challenges…
Highest IQ in the US? Please tell us the number AND the details of the IQ test he took.
Oh, and then tell us all about his graduation from RPI as a TRIPLE MAJOR!!!! Better yet, show us his yearbook photo and diplomas. I’m pretty sure Keith can’t past the “laugh test” on that one.
He gave up driving motor vehicles (from the NXIVM website). He gave up driving because his NYS driving privileges were suspended by Clifton Park town court a couple of years ago. And I believe he still owes them $$$ for failing to pay the fine.
And tell us how he justifies 2+ years of disruptive behavior in an affluent area neighborhood where NXIVM was running a dormitory out of a single family home owned by his VP, Edgar Boone. No luxury hotels for his students, just cheap bunk beds in an unfinished basement, and a rotten attitude towards his neighbors.
NXIVM needs a long hard look by the NYS Attorney General, the Internal Revenue Service, and maybe a few other law enforcement agencies. Can “Vanguard” stand the scrutiny, or will he be protected by the several Capital District politicians who have passed through his Executive Success Program?
I eagerly await the announcement that Clifton Park will hold a community parade and picnic to honor the achievements of its famous favorite son, Keith “Vanguard” Raniere. But I’m not holding my breath…
I sure hope Jim Odato’s piece in the Sunday edition is just the first of a long, in-depth series.
Comment by lathamguy — February 1st, 2010 @ 10:19 pm
I hope someone gets even with this guy the old fashioned way.
I’m not a big fan of delayed justice, or waiting for the “system” to work and subsequently costing millions of dollars more for the tax payers.
He is a scumbag and his followers are chumps. It is that simple.
Comment by Hopeful Joe — February 1st, 2010 @ 11:11 pm
good grief Thespian–what’s your IQ?
Comment by countrygirl — February 2nd, 2010 @ 7:22 am
C’mon people, Thespian was clearly being sarcastic! He or she referenced in that one paragraph: The Matrix movies, the Heaven’s Gate cult members that were wearing brand new Nikes when they committed suicide in 1997 because the spaceship behind the Hale Bopp Comet was coming to pick them up AND RPI President Shirley Jackson’s new million dollar mansion being constructed in Troy while students struggle to pay for college. Nicely played Thespian, nicely played!
Comment by jt — February 2nd, 2010 @ 11:23 am
Of course Thespian was sarcastic. The Matrix? Hello?
I know more than a few members of NXIVM, some of them I could say are my friends. They are not as unadjusted as you think, actually you wouldn’t really be able to tell… until they suggest you try one of their “seminar”.
Unsurprisingly, this seems to be recurring when something “bad” is going on with your life (breakup, work, health, etc.).
Not all of them did ask me to “join”, most likely knowing I wouldn’t “buy it”, and this suggests they are not as brainwashed as you think (at least the outer circles that is). It’s hard to tell if they can’t help trying because the financial incentive is so tempting (they do get a cut on new members from what I understand), or if they firmly believe Vanguard’s “teachings” can help you. A bit of both.
In any case, I was extremely doubtful, and ask to see some of the material ahead of time, which predictably didn’t happen. I’ll back #1’s claim, when you see them interacting, you can feel that strong bond. It’s not a small group, if you are a social creature, chances are you’ve met and interacted with a member, without noticing. Just sayin’.
It’s sad story, there’s a lot of money wasted and trust abused (be it #1, singers, actors or the Dalai Lama), and it’s good to be reminded of this cult once in a while, but they don’t set people on fire.
Comment by -S — February 2nd, 2010 @ 12:20 pm
Some of us don’t get sarcasm at all I guess…
Comment by jakester — February 3rd, 2010 @ 9:55 am
Someday all the details about this guy will come out and people will be even more outraged and disgusted than they are now.
Comment by beans — February 3rd, 2010 @ 7:12 pm
Hey sure does score a lot of HOT ASS, though–that’s for sure.
You da man!!!
Comment by TRM — February 4th, 2010 @ 7:42 pm
For real, When I was in high school, for a short while Keith was attending classes on a trial basis. I recall this all so well. No doubt his IQ is up there.. One smart person. He was only present for a few weeks as he “did not fit in”, his intellect surpassed us, so he vanished. This was a private school, not public (hint was once in Albany, but is now located in Colonie by the Airport). His IQ generates his mystic and that is what creates his charismatic draw.. So for those who are not able to see through these 2 traits, it is very easy to fall victim, thus become entranced.
Is it a cult? in my opinion no, but more like a fixation on a person for whom they cannot figure out, thus assume he is greater then he is.. Point blank as I recall him and the way about him he is equal to or reminds me of David Koresh, albeit David developed a cult as we know them, Keith a bit smarter has not, but let me tell you.. he has the potential to do so, and therein lies the danger.
Comment by Mike the second — February 5th, 2010 @ 11:58 pm
I have taken many courses over the years and have found them very interesting and extremely instrumental in the growth of me personally and professionally. I attribute the tools that I have developed in business to the work that I have done with NXIVM. Through the last few years I have seen my career soar beyond what I thought was possible, and clients continue to complement me on my skill level. My work has been widely published and I work with some of the most impressive companies in the world. The written word can be very damaging and people might want to explore for themselves before they believe everything they read. I am not an Albany resident nor am I an “insider” with the organization……..I have not been pressured to do anything, and I have found both Keith and Nancy nothing but loving and supportive. When I read the all the rage and hate in the voices of the writers on this blog, I can only hope that you can turn this energy into something more useful and productive. Life is too short.
Comment by dash — February 6th, 2010 @ 2:42 pm
I met the high IQ Raniere many years ago when one of his Consumer Buyline acolytes arranged a meeting over coffee to have him sell me on his pyramid scheme. When it became clear that I wasn’t buying it, he made a show of digging for his wallet, turned his pockets inside out, and then asked his minion to cover his coffee. Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius forgot his wallet.
Comment by Tim — February 6th, 2010 @ 5:18 pm
In Raniere, I see no one except a wolf in sheep’s clothing who is in the “ethics game” for veneration, money, and women.
Comment by anon — February 7th, 2010 @ 4:18 pm
Clearly weak souls has been sucked in by these vile people. I feel pity for you them and hope their vision clears up before they lose any chance of freely thinking for themselves. dash’s entire post is the kind of propaganda NXVIM encourages their “followers” to dish out-typical and sad.
By the way what color is your sash and do you have all of your shoes? (No one is allowed to have shoes on their feet during the brainwashing sessions- piles of shoes everywhere outside the doors).
One of these days “vanguard” is going to slip up and be put away in a little cell where he belongs. Hopefully this cult will dissolve at that time- or sooner.
Comment by meghan — February 9th, 2010 @ 6:39 am
Raniere could be a “rainman” Aspergers case.
Comment by Len — February 9th, 2010 @ 1:33 pm
Hey dash, perhaps you can give a name behind the alias and tell us what business you are a part so we can verify with qualitative and quantitative measure its success and the benefits NXIVM has provided for it?
Comment by question — February 10th, 2010 @ 4:01 pm
Just because some people have benefited from the seminars, does not mean Raniere is not a power hungry manipulator. No one close to him has a healthy relationship with their biological family. He destroys those relationships emotionally and literally so your only family is them. Don’t let him hypnotize you.
The IRS really should look into him. Notice he “owns” nothing. However, he has many verbal agreements with the many women who own businesses and business endeavors. He keeps his name out of it so he has no assets on paper. But he has access to all sorts of money.
Also, if he were the one to buy real estate, apply for permits or own a company, he’d have to sit in front of various local boards, be questioned outside of his self-created world and would not be able to be in control of the situation. Followers, don’t bother asking if I were “present” to witness any of this. Yes.
Comment by galaxyeye — February 11th, 2010 @ 11:50 am
I have 37 years old. A family (12 happily year married) 3 kids, almost 2 MBA’s, top management position and Catholic. I have taken the tool (ESP) and all I can said regarding my own experience its that:
1) I am happier than ever
2) I am more productive (and its improving)
3) I reinforce my values (life, family, love, friendship, compassion, etc)
4) I reinforce my entrepreneurial essence
5) I do not understand why people want to hurt if at the end the vision´s group is to have a more ethical and sustainable humanity.
I read a book of Miguel Ruiz: The four Agreements. It states:
a) Be honorable with your words
b) Do not make supositions
c) Do not take it personal
d) Always make your best effort
I stand with adding value and pro-life so I can contribute to humanity.
Hope this helps others to be open to a better chance to reach happiness and fulfillment. Why not? What if we can? We can give it a try, dont we?
Comment by Javier Toussaint Parrodi — February 24th, 2010 @ 9:54 am
I was in California working on 26 homes that Nxivm sent to the family known as the Plyams. I did not know about the cult but was asked to go with a friend who I had know since I was young. A top teacher was their ethic teacher.
Said how Keith Raniere was the smartest man in the world. Said How me and my wife should go to their meetings. He said he was a ethic teacher. Seemed nice enough but WAS A DEMON in disguise. And a good one. He raped my wife and used the cults money and threats to send her back to Cebu. She still has not recovered. Said she would never see her son again. Keith Raniere also has a lot of sexual relations as I was told by his partner Yuri Plyam. They sent him $26 million, a million a month for 26 months. Have the entire thing on video. My opinion is they tell you they are ethic you put your guard down and then they are like Charles Manson with a twist of Hitler. Beware of this dangerous cult.
People who support them are being hoodwinked. We are starting a civil action lawsuit for the damages the cult did on our family. Beware they are evil and have no ethics at all just want your wife and your savings. RUN