The civil case – Sarah Edmondson et al v Keith Raniere et al – is being prosecuted in the US District Court for the Eastern District of NY before Judge Eric Komitee.
Seventy plaintiffs, former students or members of NXIVM’s leadership, are represented by Neil Glazer and lawyers from his Philadelphia law firm, Kohn Swift and Graf.
There are 15 defendants; only two of which have enough assets to justify a multi-year comprehensive lawsuit: Clare and Sara Bronfman.
Timeline of Lawsuit and Clare Bronfman Responses:
January 28, 2020: Glazer filed a complaint.
August 13, 2021: Glazer filed the first amended complaint.
January 28, 2022: Clare Bronfman’s attorney, Craig C. Martin of Willkie Farr, filed a motion to dismiss.
February 25, 2022: Glazer filed a second amended complaint.
March 15, 2022: Glazer filed Combined Response to Motions to Dismiss
April 11, 2022: Martin filed a response to opposition to the motion to dismiss.
More Ethical Lives
In his filings, Martin wrote NXIVM is “a 20-year-old company with more than 17,000 past students from 33 countries, which sought to inspire joy in people’s lives” and that “NXIVM’s goal was to help people live more ethical lives and create a more humanitarian society.”
Change of Heart
In his most recent filing, Martin writes, “The crucial fact that distinguishes most Plaintiffs from Defendants is a purported change of heart and, most obviously, a desire to seek monetary gain from Defendants perceived to have significant financial resources.”
Martin wrote that the lawsuit is “an effort to intimidate and pressure a woman from a well-known and wealthy family” and “implicate Clare Bronfman in claims wholly unrelated to her.”
Leadership Not Enough
“Plaintiffs rely on… sweeping generalizations, conclusory assertions, and group pleading… in an attempt to disguise their inability to plead specific facts as to Clare Bronfman,” Martin wrote. Plaintiffs think they “need not support their claims against Clare Bronfman with specific factual allegations because… she had a leadership position. Thus, her liability as to all claims can be inferred.”
This, he argues, is “illogical because… Multiple Plaintiffs also… had a leadership role within NXIVM.”
Martin writes, “Clare Bronfman had little-to-nothing to do with most of the accusations. Associating her with such outrageous allegations is a thinly veiled attempt to take her money. Plain and simple. Plaintiffs obviously perceive Clare Bronfman as a deep pocket. However, Plaintiffs’ shameless attempt to use this litigation as a vehicle for a windfall should not be tolerated.”
Clare is alleged to be liable to all Plaintiffs for NXIMV being a RICO enterprise.
“Plaintiffs admit to being members and leaders of NXIVM,” Martin writes. “Under this logic, Plaintiffs implicate themselves as participants of the alleged enterprise. To state the obvious, it makes no sense for Plaintiffs to seek to impose treble-damages for RICO liability on Clare Bronfman based on the very same conduct that they admittedly engaged in.”
Martin claims the plaintiffs “lack even a coherent story as to what the alleged enterprise is,” and there is nothing they “plausibly allege” that shows Bronfman “was a part of it.”
His arguments are similar for sex trafficking, forced labor, and peonage:
“Plaintiffs concede,” he writes, “that they seek to hold Clare Bronfman liable to Plaintiffs for whom she was ‘only an indirect cause of some injuries.’ But that is just another way of saying that those alleged injuries were caused by persons other than Clare Bronfman. ”
Plaintiffs allege that NXIVM is a RICO enterprise because of the criminal case.
Martin writes, “Only Defendants Raniere, N. Salzman, L. Salzman, and Mack were convicted of or pled to racketeering offenses… It is incoherent for Plaintiffs to argue that, because four Defendants were convicted of being involved in a RICO enterprise in a criminal case… it is ‘uncontroversial’ that Plaintiffs have properly pled a RICO enterprise in a separate civil action involving a different group of defendants, a different group of plaintiffs, and different claims.”
Specific Claims Against Clare
Notwithstanding the argument Martin makes that the Plaintiffs do not make any specific factual allegations, there are several allegations against Bronfman in the complaint.
Martin has a reply to all of them.
One of them is that Bronfman Concealed and Harbored Aliens for Financial Gain, something she was convicted of in the criminal case.
Martin responded, “the one person Clare Bronfman pled to having harbored [Sylvie] is not a plaintiff in this litigation,” so it’s “besides the point.”
Camila by MK10ART.
Plaintiffs contend that Clare Bronfman illegally harbored Camila, a plaintiff.
Martin argues that “the FAC [First Amended Complaint]… do not support a claim, as they must, that Clare Bronfman acted for financial gain. Instead, they allege only that Clare Bronfman consulted an attorney on Camila’s behalf but did not allow Camila to talk with the attorney directly and that Clare Bronfman called Camila’s brother Adrian as he was driving Camila to Texas, demanding that he return Camila back to New York.”
Martin continues, “As to Plaintiff Adrian, the FAC does not allege that Clare Bronfman had anything to do with him coming to the United States. While it does allege that Clare Bronfman worked out a way for Adrian to be paid through a Mexican entity, it does not allege that she did so to conceal or harbor Adrian or that she did so for financial gain. In fact, the FAC alleges that Clare Bronfman was the person who arranged to pay Adrian, not that she benefitted financially from him.”
The lawsuit alleges that Bronfman helped Lindsay MacInnis obtain a visa. When asked by MacInnis, Bronfman provided her with the funds required by her visa to keep her legal immigration status.
Clare Bronfman allegedly told MacInnis that these payments were a loan she would have to repay.
Martin argues, “Plaintiffs’ claims as to Plaintiff MacInnis fail because Plaintiffs’ allegations show that Clare Bronfman did not attempt to conceal MacInnis, but rather sought to help her reside and work lawfully within the United States.”
Plaintiffs allege Clare Bronfman drafted threatening letters.
Martin argues that these allegations are “bald and conclusory” and that Plaintiffs “do not identify any fraudulent statements in those letters, nor explain why they were fraudulent, or when they were drafted.”
Plaintiffs allege that Clare Bronfman made “false statements concerning Sarah Edmondson to the Vancouver Police Department.”
Martin writes that the Plaintiffs “do not explain what the false statements were when the statements were made, why the statements were fraudulent.”
Tourette’s and Human Fright
The Plaintiffs, Jen Kobelt, Margot Leviton, Isabella Constantino, and Caryssa Long-Cottrell, alleged that “participating in illegitimate, bogus psychotherapy” qualifies as forced labor and that Bronfman is liable because she “provided the funds for the rent of the premises and the purchase of equipment.”
Martin argues that the “NXIVM-sponsored psychological studies” are not forced labor because “voluntary participation in a psychological study does not qualify either as ‘labor’ or as being ‘forced.'”
Martin writes they were not “forced to participate in the studies through force, physical restraint, serious harm, abuse of legal process, or threats thereof.”
Plaintiffs’ Sex Trafficking Claim
Martin writes, “Plaintiffs’ effort to ground Clare Bronfman’s liability on alleged sex trafficking offenses fails because the FAC does not plausibly allege that Clare Bronfman participated in—or even knew of—the alleged sex trafficking activities… Plaintiffs have made no allegations that Clare Bronfman knew of or was part of DOS.”
Plaintiffs allege that exo/eso “was designed and used to procure, groom and provide sexual servants for Raniere.”
The exo/eso plaintiffs are Bonnie Piesse, Adrienne Stiles, and Lindsay MacInnis.
Martin argues none of these women “allege any sexual relations with Raniere or anyone else within NXIVM. Therefore, participation in exo/eso cannot form the basis for any sex trafficking claims.”
The allegations of forced labor are “against all Defendants on behalf of all Plaintiffs.”
Martin argues that the judge must dismiss plaintiffs’ claims for forced labor against Bronfman.
He writes, ’58 Plaintiffs do not mention Clare Bronfman… and thus have not sufficiently alleged an injury traceable to her in order to have standing to assert claims against her…. as a matter of law.”
The plaintiffs argue that their DOS-related allegations against Bronfman relate to her alleged refusal to return collateral or retaliation against defectors after DOS became public and began disbanding, rather than participation in DOS.
Martin argues that “the DOS Plaintiffs fail to allege that Clare Bronfman was part of DOS or involved in any of its alleged forced labor activities, their forced labor claims against Clare Bronfman must be dismissed.”
Martin writes “Plaintiffs… rely on general arguments that ‘[t]he entire organization operated by capitalizing on the debt of its members.’ They claim this was ‘common knowledge to NXIVM leaders,’ which includes many Plaintiffs.”
Plaintiffs argue that, because Clare Bronfman held a leadership position in NXIVM, she knew or should have known about Daniela’s immigration status and document servitude.
Martin argues that “Plaintiffs have also pleaded that several other parties, including Plaintiffs, held similar leadership positions, yet Plaintiffs do not ask the Court to draw the same inference as to them.”
To hear the plaintiffs tell it, Clare Bronfman was responsible for the harm done to every plaintiff.
To hear her lawyer’s view, she is responsible for nothing.
The judge will determine the law during the motion practice now before him. He may dismiss some or all of the claims or none of them.
If it survives and the case does not settle, it will go before a jury to determine the facts and maybe the law.
With 70 plaintiffs and 11 individual defendants, with four in prison, two on probation, and one in Portugal, discovery, and depositions may drag on for months or years.
A trial is possible sometime in 2023. Possibly 2024.
If the Bronfmans are found liable, there will likely be an appeal. However, that may take another year or more.
Clare Bronfman is due out of prison on June 29, 2026, possibly in time for the appeal.