Friday, March 22, 2019

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man's Fight for Justice, by Bill Browder (author), Adam Grupper (narrator)

Recorded Books, February 2015

Bill Browder, grandson of the former head of the American Communist Party, and son of a prominent mathematician, as a teenager cast around for ways to rebel against his family. It took him a while to conclude that the obvious way was to become a capitalist, and a little bit longer to realize he had to put his considerable brains to work learning what he needed to know to do that. Once he did that, though, he overcame the obstacles he'd created for himself, and, in due course, wound up, by now a British citizen, the most successful foreign investor in Russia.

Then he started asking awkward questions about seemingly undervalued Russian companies, and what was really going on with them.

He didn't set out to be the most effective shareholder rights activist in Russia, or attempting to combat Russian government corruption. It was through this campaign that he came to meet Sergio Magnitsky, a name most people now know, if they do, from Magnitsky Act, first passed in the US as Browder got an unwanted education in politics in his pursuit of justice for Magnitsky, who was murdered in a Russian prison, and subsequently in other countries, as well as the European Union.

Sergio Magnitsky was a tax lawyer, who in doing some work for Browder and his partners, discovered some serious government corruption. Browder, in surprising naivete, didn't realize that he had gone from being useful to Putin, to being a problem for him. Magnitsky was arrested, and told he would have to lie about what he'd found, and blame Browder. (This is the very condensed version. Listen to Browder's story.

Magnitsky is tortured and murdered in prison. and Browder sets out on a campaign for justice for Magnitsky and his family. It's an unpleasant education in politics, often terrifying because of course Putin has no hesitation about killing people even after they're outside of Russia, and incredibly stressful for him, his family, his partners, and his friends.

And yet, the Magnitsky Act is passed in multiple countries, creating real consequences for powerful and corrupt Russian oligarchs who are not used to facing real consequences for anything.

This is a fascinating and moving story. Browder includes his early career and how he became focused on working in Russia and making a positive difference there, and that gives a context and frame to how a dedicated capitalist wanting to make money became a crusader for human rights and good corporate governance in Russia.

Note that, having been published in 2015, it doesn't include events since then.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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