Nov 30, 2017

Editorial: Finally, Nxivm gets a look

Albany Times Union
November 30, 2017


A controversial "self-help group" faces scrutiny.


Why did it take years of complaints to get to this point?


It is baffling that an organization tied in court documents and published reports to allegations of such questionable practices as human behavioral experimentation and branding of its members has somehow escaped deep official scrutiny for years.

That unexplained inaction, arguably as bizarre as the allegations themselves, may finally be coming to an end for the Colonie-based Nxivm, with at least one state investigationapparently under way. To say it's about time would be an understatement.

Billed as a self-improvement enterprise, Nxivm has a disturbing aura, with attention focused on its cofounder, Keith Raniere, whom followers refer to as "Vanguard." Mr. Raniere is no stranger to authorities, having paid a $40,000 fine in 1996 for his operation of a nationwide consumer buying club that authorities said operated like a pyramid scheme; he admitted no wrongdoing.

Mr. Raniere isn't talking to reporters these days. In the past, he and his associates have strenuously denied any inappropriate activity.

Founded in 1998, Nxivm purports to help people unlock their potential through "rational inquiry."

Many former members, however, describe troubling actions wrapped in something of a spiritual aura around Mr. Raniere. The sordid accusations are no secret to readers of Times Union coverage over the years, based on court filings and interviews. Complaints about the entity have gone over time to the state Attorney General, the U.S. attorney's office in Albany, the New York State Police, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency, the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI, yet apparently no significant investigation resulted. Rather, in some cases, complainants themselves came under official scrutiny, and Nxivm relentlessly pursued critics with litigation.

Whether the lack of deep investigation is because the allegations had no merit, or because government agencies fell down on the job, remains a question. Nonetheless, we invite readers to make up their own minds by reading our coverage of Nxivm over the years at

Some examples: The state Health Department recently received a complaint about an Albany physician associated with Nxivm who performed brain-activity experiments, apparently unconnected to any research institution, in which participants were subjected to disturbingly violent images. And both this newspaper and The New York Times interviewed a woman who filed a complaint with the state in which she recounted being branded with Mr. Rainiere's initials by another doctor as part of an initiation into what was allegedly a secret sisterhood, for which the women had to provide nude photos or other compromising material as collateral.

If we are to believe what we're told, state officials may finally be taking this more seriously. The governor's office has ordered a review of the state's handling of the women's complaints, and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office is now said to be looking into Nxivm's operations.

No matter what comes of these investigations, there's a question that cries out for an answer from state and federal agencies alike, and which we ask on behalf of those who stepped forward to allege what Nxivm was doing over the years: What took this long?

No comments: