An American-born financier spins an almost unbelievable tale of the “poisoned” psychology afflicting business life in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
By 2000, Browder, founder and CEO of the Hermitage Fund, helmed “the best performing emerging-markets fund in the world.” Taking full advantage of the unprecedented investment opportunities available during post-Soviet Russia’s transition from communism to capitalism, a gangland business atmosphere where oligarchs operated with impunity, Browder’s firm became the biggest investor in Russia’s stock market. He owed his rise in part to his willingness to fight back, to alert Western business contacts, to inform the press and to file complaints with government authorities against those corrupting the business culture. For a while, his interests coincided with those of Putin, still busy consolidating power, doing his own bit to rein in the oligarchs. By 2005, however, secure in his authority, Putin revoked Browder’s visa, branding him “a threat to national security.” There followed a series of moves against Browder and Hermitage, including the raiding of the company’s Moscow offices on trumped-up charges of tax evasion and, most notoriously, the arrest, imprisonment, beating and death of tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who had helped expose government crime. Browder’s unceasing efforts to achieve justice for his murdered friend and employee culminated in the 2012 Magnitsky Act, a human rights landmark that named and shamed the responsible Russian officials. This well-paced, heartfelt narrative covers the author’s personal life—he’s the son of a famed mathematician and the grandson of Earl Browder, former head of the Communist Party USA—his business career, including brushes with the likes of fraudster Robert Maxwell and swashbuckling Ron Burkle; close relationships with billionaires Edmond Safra and Beny Steinmetz; his dealings on the Magnitsky Act with U.S. senators; and Putin’s vindictive retaliatory measures against Browder and the act.
It may be that “Russian stories never have happy endings,” but Browder’s account more than compensates by ferociously unmasking Putin’s thugocracy.