Los Angeles - Heiresses to the Seagram liquor fortune say their former financial planner revealed their business secrets by, among other things, enlisting a psychic, and asking him questions about their financial positions while he was in a trance. In their Superior Court complaint, Clare and Sara Bronfman say they fired Barbara Bouchey in May 2009, and she retaliated by divulging their personal financial information, investment history and confidential attorney-client communications to other attorneys and the media.
Bouchey consulted psychic Robert Petro and asked him to "go into a trance whereby Bouchey would pose various questions to Petro" concerning the Bronfmans' financial positions, the complaint states.
"Bouchey contacted two different Los Angeles attorneys who were representing California investment advisers with whom the plaintiffs had had a dispute," according to the complaint. "Bouchey provided these Los Angeles attorneys private and personal financial information about the plaintiffs which had nothing to do with the California dispute, but which if exposed to the public would embarrass the plaintiffs. ... Indeed, Bouchey and said Does were successful, as the embarrassing details of the lives of the plaintiffs were published in newspaper and in Internet locations, and these publishers relied upon information Bouchey provided."
The Albany Times-Union reported that the Bronfman sisters followed an Albany, N.Y.-based organization known as NXIVM (pronounced "nexium"), and that its leader, Keith Raniere, "exercised complete control over Sara and Clare Bronfman."
Raniere teaches his "Rational Inquiry" system through "Executive Success Programs" that are "designed to help individuals develop the practical, emotional, and intellectual skills they need to reach their maximum potential," according to NXIVM's Web site.
Raniere's students are called "Espians" and they are instructed to address Raniere as "Vanguard."
Bouchey is a former girlfriend of Raniere's and was "also a consultant to NXIVM for many years before breaking up with Raniere and the group last year," according to the Times-Union.
Bouchey and others have criticized the organization as a cult.
In their Superior Court complaint, the Bronfman sisters claim that Bouchey "hatched a plan to disseminate the private information to third parties and the press" in a manner "calculated to hurt and embarrass" them.
The complaint includes other allegations about the defendant John Does. It describes Does 3 and 4 as "attorneys who conspired with Bouchey to commit the torts described above. These did so with repeated meetings with Bouchey in California, or on the phone, where details of the plaintiffs' private lives were disclosed for future dissemination."
The complaint adds: "Doe 4 acted with particular malice. He has an odd belief that the plaintiffs are members of a cult. Doe 4 holds himself out as a counter-cult attorney. Doe 4 sits on the board of the Rick Ross Institute, which is headed up by noted counter-cult deprogrammer and convicted felon Rick A. Ross. Doe 4 replaced Doe 3 as attorney of record in Precision [Precision Development, LLC v. Plyam, et al., in L.A. Superior Court] and, on information and belief, fed information about the plaintiffs to Ross, who published such information on the Rick Ross Institute Web site. Ross and an organization known as NXIVM Corp. have been involved in litigation against each other over the theft [sic] by Ross and publication of NXIVM course materials for eight years. The plaintiffs are independent contractors, instructors and have been or are board members of NXIVM. In early February 2010, a Ross attorney (Doe 5) attempted to extort the Bronfmans into settling the New Jersey case by threatening to expose material, on information and belief, Bouchey was providing. On information and belief, Doe 4 was central to this conspiracy to extort and expose. As soon as plaintiffs establish by discovery that Doe 4 had communications with Ross attorneys about exposing this material, Doe 4 will be added as a defendant."
The Bronfmans seek punitive damages for breach of fiduciary duty, invasion of privacy and conspiracy. They are represented by Robert Crockett with Latham & Watkins.
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