PHILADELPHIA, PA January 28, 2020 — 80 individuals filed a lawsuit in federal court in Brooklyn today against the former leaders of the purported self-improvement company NXIVM. The lawsuit seeks compensation from NXIVM founder Keith Raniere and members of his “Inner Circle,” including heiresses Clare Bronfman and Sara Bronfman and actress Alison Mack, for fraud, forced labor, human trafficking and for conducting unlawful medical experiments.

The complaint (PDF) alleges that the defendants peddled an inherently risky “pseudo-scientific hodgepodge of psychotherapeutic methods” as expensive self-improvement courses, taken by thousands of unsuspecting people, many of whom lost their life savings and were severely traumatized by the process. “NXIVM preyed on earnest, intelligent people who wanted to better themselves and the world through what they thought to be a humanitarian undertaking of unprecedented scope,” said Neil Glazer of Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C., one of the law firms representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also alleges that the defendants pressured students to plunge more deeply into teachings that, over time, radically reframed gender roles and relations. According to the complaint, NXIVM’s curriculum became increasingly misogynistic, teaching that women were inherently weak and untrustworthy, and that to become stronger and more empowered they first had to experience extreme humiliation and degradation. “Defendants systematically stripped women of their self-esteem, and those who fit certain criteria were then groomed to become Raniere’s sexual partners,” said Glazer. “Through an insidious process of slow, subtle indoctrination and manipulation, NXIVM’s leaders drew ever closer to its Albany headquarters those students who had become most vulnerable to defendants’ abusive and coercive methods.”

The lawsuit further alleges that the defendants employed fear tactics to suppress internal dissent, prevent defections and intimidate those who left into keeping silent. According to the complaint, sisters Clare and Sara Bronfman spent millions of dollars bankrolling campaigns of vexatious litigation against NXIVM’s perceived enemies, including lodging false criminal complaints and having lawyers send letters threatening lawsuits and criminal prosecution to the women who were leaving “DOS,” the so-called “master-slave” group that Raniere created and secretly ran.

“Nobody should ever feel afraid to come forward after being victimized. We should have zero tolerance for that,” said Glazer. Although Sarah Edmondson and two other outspoken NXIVM victims are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the complaint was filed on behalf of 58 Jane Does and 19 John Does – persons who, according to Glazer, “fear both the defendants’ retaliation and society’s negative judgment of things that, quite frankly, society should start trying harder to understand. This can happen to anyone, and it has.”

The lawsuit, captioned Sarah Edmondson, et al. v. Keith Raniere, et al., was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, and asserts claims against Keith Raniere, Nancy Salzman, Clare Bronfman, Sara Bronfman, Lauren Salzman, Alison Mack and others. To download a copy of the complaint, click here (PDF).

For information about this lawsuit please call Neil Glazer at 215-238-1700 or email him at nglazer@kohnswift.com