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NXIVM (/ˈnɛksiəm/ NEKS-ee-əm) is an American multi-level marketing company[2] based near Albany, New York, that offered personal and professional development seminars through its "Executive Success Programs". The company has been described as a cult and a pyramid scheme, and has also been alleged to be a recruiting platform for a secret society (variously called "DOS" or "The Vow") in which women were branded and forced into sexual slavery.

NXIVM Corporation
Privately held company
IndustryMulti-level marketing; personal development
Founded1998
HeadquartersAlbany, New York
Key people
Keith Raniere (founder)
Nancy Salzman (president)
Allison Mack
Clare Bronfman (funder)[1]
ProductsSeminars
WebsiteNXIVM.com (Archived)

In early 2018, NXIVM founder Keith Raniere and his associate, actress Allison Mack, were arrested and indicted on federal charges related to DOS, including sex trafficking.[3] Others associated with NXIVM were also charged with federal crimes. As of April 2018, five people associated with NXIVM—Mack, NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman, Lauren Salzman, Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman, and bookkeeper Kathy Russell—had pleaded guilty to various charges.[4][5] Raniere's federal trial began on May 7, 2019.

Contents

HistoryEdit

In 1998, Keith Raniere and Nancy Salzman founded NXIVM, a personal development company[6] offering "Executive Success Programs" (ESPs) and a range of techniques aimed at self-improvement.[7][8][9] Raniere claimed that the programs' "main emphasis is to have people experience more joy in their lives."[8] A prior business venture of Raniere's, Consumers Buyline,[10] was accused by the New York Attorney General of having been a pyramid scheme; Raniere signed a consent order in 1996 in which he denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to pay a $40,000 fine and to be permanently banned from "promoting, offering or granting participation in a chain distribution scheme".[11]

By 2003, some 3,700 people had taken part in ESP classes, reportedly including businesswoman Sheila Johnson; former Surgeon General Antonia Novello; Enron executive Stephen Cooper; and Ana Cristina Fox, daughter of former Mexican president Vicente Fox.[12] Other participants were later reported to include entrepreneur Richard Branson (who later denied having taken the classes[13][14]) and actresses Linda Evans, Grace Park, and Nicki Clyne.[15][10] In the early 2000s, Seagram heiresses Clare and Sara Bronfman, the daughters of Edgar Bronfman Sr., became attached to the organization.[10][9]

During NXIVM seminars, students were expected to call Raniere and Salzman "Vanguard" and "Prefect", respectively.[16][17][18] The Hollywood Reporter stated that Raniere "adopted the title 'Vanguard' from a favorite arcade game he had played as a child, in which the destruction of one's enemies increased one's own power."[19] Within the organization, the reasoning for the titles was that Raniere was the leader of a philosophical movement and Salzman was his first student.[9]

NXIVM's training is a trade secret, subject to non-disclosure agreements, but reportedly uses a technique the organization calls "rational inquiry" to facilitate personal and professional development. In 2003, NXIVM sued the Ross Institute, alleging copyright infringement for publishing excerpts of content from its manual in three critical articles commissioned by cult investigator Rick Alan Ross and posted on his website.[20][21][22] Ross posted a psychiatrist's assessment of NXIVM's "secret" manual on his website – the report called the regimen "expensive brainwashing". The manual was obtained by Ross from former member Stephanie Franco, a co-defendant in the trial, who had signed a non-disclosure agreement not to divulge information from the manual to others. NXIVM filed suits in both New York and New Jersey, but both were later dismissed.[15][23]

In October 2003, Forbes published an article on NXIVM and Raniere.[12] Vanity Fair subsequently reported of the article: "People at NXIVM were stunned. Expecting a positive story, the top ranks had spoken to Forbes, including Raniere, Salzman, and Sara Bronfman. What upset them above all were Edgar Bronfman’s remarks. 'I think it’s a cult,' he told the magazine, going on to say that he was troubled about the 'emotional and financial' investment in NXIVM by his daughters, to whom he hadn’t spoken in months."[10] In 2006, Forbes published an article about the Bronfman sisters, stating that they had taken out a line of credit to loan NXIVM US$2 million, repayable through personal training sessions and phone consultations with Salzman.[24] Another Forbes article in 2010 discussed the failures of commodities and real estate deals by the Bronfmans made pursuant to Raniere's advice.[25]

After actress Kristin Kreuk became involved with NXIVM in 2006, Salzman and her daughter Lauren went to Vancouver, British Columbia to recruit Kreuk's Smallville co-star Allison Mack.[19] The younger Salzman (herself a junior NXIVM leader)[9] bonded with Mack and the latter became involved,[19] although Kreuk would subsequently leave NXIVM.[26] Mack became "an enthusiastic proselytizer" for NXIVM, persuading her parents to take courses, and, after wrapping production of Smallville in 2011, moved to Clifton Park, New York near NXIVM's home-base in Albany.[19] Early 2007 saw a string of financial contributions from NXIVM participants to Hillary Clinton's first presidential campaign, with over a dozen participants donating the maximum allowable figure of $2,300. The contributions totalled $29,900.[27]

In 2008, the Bronfman sisters allegedly pressured Stephen Herbits, a confidante of their father, to ask Albany County District Attorney David Soares, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, and New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram to open criminal investigations into NXIVM's critics. NXIVM reportedly kept dossiers on Soares, Spitzer, political consultant Roger Stone, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, and Albany Times Union publisher George Randolph Hearst III in a box in the basement of Nancy Salzman's home.[28] According to the Times Union, NXIVM "developed a reputation for aggressively pursuing critics and defectors who broke from its ranks, including using litigation to punish critics of Raniere, the organization, or its training methods."[29]

The World Ethical Foundations Consortium, an organization co-founded by Raniere and the Bronfman sisters, sponsored a visit to Albany by the 14th Dalai Lama in 2009. The visit was initially cancelled due to negative press surrounding NXIVM,[30] but was rescheduled; the Dalai Lama spoke at Albany's Palace Theatre in May 2009.[31] Subsequently, in 2017, Lama Tenzin Dhonden, the self-styled "Personal Emissary for Peace for the Dalai Lama" who had arranged the appearance, was suspended from his position amid corruption charges; the investigation also revealed a personal relationship between Dhonden and Sara Bronfman, which began in 2009.[32]

NXIVM has been described as a pyramid scheme,[33][34][35][7] a sex-trafficking operation,[36] a cult,[37][38][39] and a sex cult.[40] In a 2010 article in the Times Union, former NXIVM coaches characterized students as "prey" for use by Raniere in satisfying his sexual or gambling-related proclivities.[41] Kristin Keeffe, a longtime partner of Raniere and mother of his child, left the group in 2014 and described Raniere as "dangerous", stating that "[a]ll the worst things you know about NXIVM are true."[42]

Media investigationsEdit

Starting with an October 2017 article in The New York Times, details began to emerge about DOS, a "secret sisterhood" within NXIVM, in which female members were allegedly referred to as "slaves," branded with the initials of Raniere and Mack, subjected to corporal punishment from their "masters", and required to provide nude photos or other potentially damaging information about themselves as "collateral".[35][8][43][44][7] Law enforcement representatives have alleged that members of DOS were forced into sexual slavery.[45]

Sarah Edmondson, a Canadian actress who had been an ESP participant since 2005, said that she left NXIVM after Mack inducted her into DOS the preceding March at her home in Albany. Edmondson alleged that participants were blindfolded naked, held down by Mack and three other women, and branded by NXIVM-affiliated doctor Danielle Roberts, using a cauterizing pen.[35][8][46][47][19] Appearing on an A&E television program about cults, Edmondson would provide additional context on the use of the "collateral" concept, stating that it was used in innocuous forms from the earliest, outermost stages of NXIVM in order to acclimatize victims—for example, collateralizing small amounts of money that one might forfeit if one did not go to the gym one day.[8][9] The Times would later report that "hundreds" of members left NXIVM after Edmondson went public about her experience.[9]

On December 15, 2017, the ABC newsmagazine 20/20 aired an exposé featuring interviews with many former NXIVM adherents, including Edmondson and Catherine Oxenberg, who alleged that her daughter, India Oxenberg, was in danger due to the group. Several former members reported financial and sexual predation carried out by NXIVM leaders.[35][43][48] Edmondson was further featured in "Escaping NXIVM", during the first season of the CBC podcast Uncover.[49]

Seven socially-prominent Mexicans, including Emilio Salinas Occelli (son of former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari) and Ana Cristina Fox (daughter of former president Vicente Fox), Rosa Laura Junco, Loreta Garza Dávila (a business leader from Nuevo Leon), Daniela Padilla, Camila Fernández, and Mónica Durán, have been accused of involvement, according to an article in the New York Times published on May 26, 2019.[50]

Legal troubles and suspension of operationsEdit

In March 2018, Raniere was arrested and indicted on a variety of charges related to DOS, including sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit forced labor.[3][51] He was arrested in Mexico and held in custody in New York after appearing in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas.[52] The indictment alleged that at least one woman was coerced into sex with Raniere, who forced DOS members to undergo the branding ritual alleged by Edmondson and others.[53][54] United States Attorney Richard Donoghue stated that Raniere "created a secret society of women whom he had sex with and branded with his initials, coercing them with the threat of releasing their highly personal information and taking their assets."[7]

On April 20, 2018, Mack was arrested and indicted on similar charges to Raniere's. According to prosecutors, after she recruited women into first NXIVM and then DOS, Mack coerced them into engaging in sexual activity with Raniere and performing menial tasks, for which she was allegedly paid by Raniere.[19] Mack was further alleged to be second-in-command of NXIVM after Raniere.[19][26][55][56][57] On April 24, Mack was released on $5 million bond pending trial and held under house arrest with her parents in California.[58][59] If convicted of all charges, Mack and Raniere face a minimum of fifteen years and up to life in prison.[60] On May 4, Raniere pleaded not guilty.[61]

Salzman's home was raided shortly after Raniere's arrest,[7] and prosecutors stated during his arraignment that further arrests and a superseding indictment for Raniere and Mack should be expected.[62][63] In late May, authorities moved to seize two NXIVM-owned properties near Albany.[64]

In April 2018, the New York Post reported that NXIVM had moved to Brooklyn, New York and was being led by Clare Bronfman.[65] On June 12, 2018, the Times Union reported that NXIVM had suspended its operations due to "extraordinary circumstances facing the company".[66] Bronfman was arrested on July 24 and charged with racketeering. She was released to house arrest after signing a $100 million bail bond. Also arrested and charged with the same crime were NXIVM President Nancy Salzman; her daughter, Lauren Salzman; and another NXIVM employee, Kathy Russell.[67][68]

On March 13, 2019, Nancy Salzman pleaded guilty to a charge of racketeering criminal conspiracy.[69][70][71] Also in March 2019, Lauren Salzman pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy.[72] On April 8, 2019, Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering.[73] On April 19, 2019, Bronfman pleaded guilty to charges of harboring an alien and identity fraud; bookkeeper Russell also pleaded guilty to visa fraud.[74]

Raniere's federal trial began on May 7, 2019.[75]

Beliefs and practicesEdit

In NXIVM classes, rank was signified by colored sashes, not unlike the belts used in martial arts classes.[76]

NXIVM featured a 12-point "Mission Statement" recited by participants in which they pledged to "purge" themselves "of all parasite and envy-based habits", to enroll others in such courses, and to "ethically control as much of the money, wealth and resources of the world as possible within my success plan".[77] Photographs of Vanguard and Prefect are display during classes, and classes concluded with participants showing gratitude to the two at the end of each class.[78]

NXIVM conducted "Intensives"—classes which ran 12-hours-a-day for 16 days. One cited price was $7500.[79][80]

NXIVM featured a practice, termed "exploration of meaning" that involved a senior member questioning a member as they delve into their childhood memories.[81]

NXIVM taught that some people, called "Suppressives", are inherently evil.[82]

NXIVM has been associated with several related organizations. Jness was a society aimed at women, while the Society of Protectors was aimed primarily at men.[81] A third group was known by the acronym DOS for "Dominus Obsequious Sororium", a Latin phrase that reportedly translates to "Master over Slave Women".[83]

Notable membersEdit

NXIVM was founded by Keith Raniere (born August 26, 1960)[84] the founder of NXIVM, a multi-level marketing organization that has been described as a cult. In March 2018, Raniere was arrested and indicted on a variety of charges related to DOS (a "secret sisterhood" within NXIVM), including sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit forced labor.[3][51] His trial began on May 7, 2019.[85]

In 1998, Keith Raniere met Nancy Salzman, a nurse and trained practitioner of hypnotism and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. The two founded "Executive Success Programs", a personal development company[86] offering a range of techniques aimed at self-improvement.[7][8][9]

Barbara Bouchey was a client of Nancy Salzman, having been referred to her in 1988. Beginning in 2000, Bouchey dated Raniere. In 2009, Bouchey and eight other women ("The NXIVM Nine") confronted Raniere with concerns about abuse within the organization. That year, Bouchey left the group and later went to law enforcement.[87]

In 1991, Raniere was pitching his business "Consumer's Buyline" when he met Toni Natalie.[88] Natalie and her then-husband became top sellers for the organization. [88] Natalie recalled that she was able to stop smoking after a two-hour session with Raniere. [88] Within a year, Natalie and her son had moved to be near Raniere; her marriage ended shortly thereafter. Natalie and Raniere dated for the next eight years.[88] In the mid-90s, Raniere and Natalie operated a health-products store.[89] In 1999, Raniere's eight-year relationship with Natalie ended. Natalie would subsequently claim to have been the victim of harassment.[90] In a January 2003 ruling, federal judge Robert Littlefield implied Raniere was using a legal suit to harass Natalie. Wrote Littlefield: "This matter smacks of a jilted fellow's attempt at revenge or retaliation against his former girlfriend, with many attempts at tripping her up along the way"[91][88] In 2011, Natalie filed documents in federal court alleging that she had been repeatedly raped by Raniere.[88]

Sara Bronfman is the daughter of billionaire Seagrams chairman Edgar Bronfman Sr who was introduced to NXIVM by a family friend in 2002.[92] She in turn introduced her sister, Clare Bronfman to NXIVM. Clare Bronfman was arrested by federal agents on July 24, 2018 in New York City and charged with money laundering and identity theft in connection with NXIVM activities. She pleaded not guilty in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn. She was released on $100 million bond and placed on house arrest with electronic monitoring. [93] On April 19, 2019, Bronfman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain and fraudulent use of identification. She faces 21 to 27 months in prison and has agreed to forfeit $6 million.[94]

Allison Mack is an American actress known for her role on the series Smallville. In 2010, Mack was reported to have been recruited to the Vancouver chapter of the multi-level marketing organization NXIVM, along with her Smallville co-star Kristin Kreuk.[95] Mack was arrested in Brooklyn by the FBI on April 20, 2018, on charges of sex trafficking, sex trafficking conspiracy, and forced labor conspiracy in relation to her role in the NXIVM organization. Mack pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in April 2019, and is currently awaiting sentencing in September 2019.

Sarah Edmondson is a Canadian actress. After leaving NXIVM in early 2017, she publicly denounced the organization, claiming that she was invited into "DOS," a substructure within NXIVM operated by Keith Raniere and Allison Mack, and was branded with Raniere's and Mack's initials at Mack's Albany home.[96][97][98] Edmondson showed the brand in a New York Times expose of NXIVM.[96]

India Oxenberg, daughter of actress Catherine Oxenberg, was introduced to the group in 2011. [99] At Raniere's trial, a witness testified that India had spent a year on a 500-calorie-per-day diet.[100] In May 2017, India admitted to her mother that she was among those who had been branded.[101] India left the group in June 2018, after Raniere's arrest.[102] In August 2018, Catherine Oxenberg's book Captive: A Mother's Crusade to Save Her Daughter from a Terrifying Cult was published.[103]

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