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Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice Paperback – October 20, 2015
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From the Publisher
“Reads like a classic thriller, with an everyman hero alone and in danger in a hostile foreign city . . . but it’s all true.” -- Lee Child, bestselling author of the Jack Reacher series
"The first half of Red Notice traces Browder’s improbable journey from prep-school washout through college, business school, and a series of consulting and Wall Street jobs before becoming Russia’s largest foreign investor....This book-within-a-book does for investing in Russia and the former Soviet Union what Liar’s Poker did for our understanding of Salomon Brothers, Wall Street, and the mortgage-backed securities business in the 1980s. Browder’s business saga meshes well with the story of corruption and murder in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, making Red Notice an early candidate for any list of the year’s best books." -- Norman Pearlstine, Fortune
"The story of Sergei Magnitsky's life and death is a shocking true-life thriller, and Bill Browder was the man to write it." -- Tom Stoppard
“In Red Notice, Bill Browder tells the harrowing and inspiring story of how his fight for justice in Russia made him an unlikely international human rights leader and Vladimir Putin's number-one enemy. It is the book for anyone interested in understanding the culture of corruption and impunity in Putin's Russia today, and Browder’s heroic example of how to fight back.” -- Senator John McCain
"This book reads like a thriller, but it's a true, important, and inspiring real story. Bill Browder is an amazing moral crusader, and his book is a must-read for anyone who seeks to understand Russia, Putin, or the challenges of doing business in the world today." -- Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs and The Innovators
"Browder’s true story is a heart-in-your-throat page turner, and the only close-up look I know of what it’s like to take on Putin. It is also a moving account of a man who found his calling, and ended up winning in the end." -- Bryan Burrough, co-author of Barbarians at the Gate and author of Public Enemies and The Big Rich
"A fascinating, heart-stopping account of how to take on Putin--and win. It's exciting to read about Browder's roller-coaster ride to wealth in Russia, and to learn how his compassion for Sergei Magnitsky, his murdered lawyer, inspired his memorable struggle against the venal apparatchiks of a corrupt state. This is the gripping--and absolutely true--story behind the Magnitsky Law, a signal advance in human rights." -- Geoffrey Robertson, human rights lawyer and author of Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle For Global Justice
"This indispensable look at the brutal realities of the Putin regime is of even greater relevance thanks to Bill Browder’s unique expertise and personal experience inside the belly of the beast.” -- Garry Kasparov, Chess Grandmaster and author of How Life Imitates Chess
About the Author
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Several sections come across as disingenuous. For example, he criticizes his first wife for planning an incredibly expensive vacation and then brags about an expensive vacation that he takes with his second wife. He fakes humility at the hearings for the Magnitsky Act, but brags about his meetings with Senators and the talks he is invited to give. He repeatedly talks about how his talks and speeches were the only ones that could make certain audiences cry. It seems far-fetched for him to call himself a human rights activist. He took up on one cause for his auditor, Magnitsky. What are his other great acts of human rights activism? I really don't see any. He states late in the book that he has no culpability in the death of Magnitsky. On the one hand, that is completely true. The Russian guards denied medical care and beat Magnitsky to death. However, it is Browder who thought he could reveal corruption in Russia while in Russia and remain untouched. His arrogance and disregard for culture and political realities made him a less than sympathetic person. His descriptions of people's body shapes and voice tones are also a distraction and unnecessary, much like his description of dating his second wife. It gave a window into his character. He talked about dating her the way someone describes a sporting event using words like win and conquer. He went out of his way to write about how beautiful she was and how other men wanted her but he won her, making her sound like a prize instead of a human. He attempts to sound like he cares for the Russian orphans that now cannot be adopted by US citizens, but it sounded more like a passing thought. If he is a human rights activist, what is he doing for the orphans, especially since the ceasing of adoptions was a direct retaliation for the Magnitsky Act.
There are no doubts that Magnitsky was unjustly killed in a Russian prison by Russian officials. Unfortunately, the way Bill Browder wrote the book leaves the reader thinking about Bill Browder and not about the corrupt Russian government and its impact on our country.
All of these qualities of Bill Browder and the style of his writing where he repeatedly portrays himself as a magnificent human rights activist were a complete turnoff.
The book is written with remarkable clarity and deftly explains difficult subject matter. It is extremely timely as it provides the backdrop for the meeting that Donald Trump, Jr. held with a Russian lawyer who wanted to discuss lifting the Magnitsky sanctions.
Of course, what happened to Magnitsky was abhorrent. I agree as well that sanctions against corrupt state operators, kleptocrats, banksters, etc who rob their country blind, pillage public coffers, etc should be enacted & enforced. What I also believe is the SAME actions should be taken against HEDGE FUND OPERATORS whose actions are equally or even more egregious. At the VERY least, they are complicit in the pain & suffering people endure as a result of their actions.
What happened to Magnitsky pales by orders of magnitude compared to the devastating and irreversible long-term effects of the unfettered, rogue capitalism w/in which Browder became a wealthy man. He did so by making a vocation of predatory profiteering - pillaging & picking the bones of stressed, failing or failed states. While not illegal, how he made/makes his fortune is amoral.
Right now, as I write this review, Puerto Rico has been DEVASTATED by Hurricane Maria. There is NO Electricity on the ENTIRE island and the PRIVATIZED electric company REFUSES to restore electricity. Why? Because hedge fund operators preyed on Puerto Rico - left the ppl & the state even more impoverished and, now, in perpetual peonage. Essential public services (e.g. power & water) infrastructure were sold off / "privatized" (turned into for-profit operations) @ bargain basement prices to pay toward their debt. The authority of the island's mayor was usurped. Puerto Rico’s finances are now CONTROLLED by a board of predatory banksters who will ensure Puerto Rico remains in perpetual peonage to them. Ppl have & will continue to die as a direct result of the unconscionable profiteering by hedge fund operations.
This is not an isolated incident. This rapacious behavior by rogue capitalist operations like hedge fund management companies is sweeping the globe. Decimating countries - often leaving autocratic, tyrannous governments in their wake. Hedge fund profiteers wash their hands of culpability for the fallout from their actions as they belly up to the trough & fatten themselves off unimaginable misery. So, when one of them falls, the irony of the wildly disproportionate ratio of their fallen to those whom they “rescued” (profiteered off of) is not lost on me..
Top international reviews
First, it flows like a well-written political thriller but, unfortunately, it is fact, not fiction. That said, if ever Bill Browder gets bored with asset management he would surely be able to make a living writing thrillers like this. He's a natural. He has the knack of reducing sometimes arcane and abstruse business language and legal procedures to an easily understandable narrative.
Secondly, his story is a timely warning to those who wish to work/invest in Russia. It is clear that despite the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, old habits die hard. Stalin's chief prosecutor is reputed to have said in the 1930s that he would consign the rule of law to the dustbin of history. He did, and that philosophy effectively still endures today. Far from being independent of the Executive, the judiciary and law enforcement agencies are its handmaidens. The horrifying events surrounding the interrogation of the author's lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, and his eventual death in custody, testify to the scant regard that some of Russia's institutions have for due process.
Mr Browder is a brave man, perhaps to the point of recklessness; recklessly endangering his own life.
Thirdly, and importantly (without wishing to belittle Sergey Magnitsky's barbaric treatment), it is a contemporaneous record of what is happening on the front line to anybody who crosses the power elite in Russia; from illegal tax assessments and unlawful share dilutions to the employment of "white noise" jamming techniques in meetings - not forgetting Litvinenko's polonium poisoning (in the UK), allegedly by the FSB.
Mr Browder's experiences are just as seminal as the views of those who have spent their lives studying the topic from afar, never having set foot on Russian soil. There is no substitute for the harsh realities of practical experience.
Furthermore, being a writer myself on Russian affairs and culture (both of fact and fiction), I can empathise with his experiences. I, too, lived and worked on the front line in the USSR/Russia in the late 1980s/90s – not as a business investor, but as a lawyer trying to help bring some order to a disintegrating communist empire. And, again, like the author, I have met many Russian individuals whom I admire, respect and love, and who just want to live in harmony with the rest of us. Russian government institutions, on the other hand are, as Churchill said of the USSR generally: "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma".
This book is a must read, not only by those proposing to invest in Russia, but also by anybody interested in international relations with the country, which at the moment are testy to say the least. If both East and West took more time to try to understand the other side's position, and not judge each other by their own standards, I am sure that the relationship would be warmer, despite the cultural differences.
His expertise is in the privatisation of liberated, eastern block companies. Along the way he upsets some of the shady, immensely wealthy oligarchs . His young lawyer whom he totally trusts and believes in discovers a massive fraud against the Russian tax office perpetrated by high ranked Russian officials who in turn make the young man's life a living hell. They imprison and torture him month after month denying him medical attention for an agonising condition in an attempt to have him retract his findings. This brave young lawyer will not do so, so they beat him to death.
The second half of the book concerns Bill Prouder's crusade to get justice for his friend's good name and family. His fight involves the British and U.S. government at the highest levels. Republican Senator John McCain comes out of it as a hero while democrat senator Kerry is portrayed as a self obsesed disgrace. On the other side the battle goes all the way up to Putin and what a piece of work he is.
If this was a work of fiction one would think it OTT, but it is a well documented truth opening one's eyes to the Russian greed, cruelty, in-bread dishonesty and it must be noted stupidity.
Bill Prouder to his own danger sticks to his task and is much to be admired. I promise this is one you won't put down.
The book is a compelling read, made all the more relevant since we are dealing with very recent history.
Some might argue that the book is nothing more than the moaning of a greedy and very rich man who found his methods challenged and resented the besmirching of his name. I think it is much more. For me, it provided a unique insight into Putin's Russia and is the story of a brave and determined man. It is required reading for anyone planning to do business with Russia, or indeed for those planning simply to visit that country.
Bill Browder is a London-based, American, hedge fund promoter. He is a very rich man and he amassed that wealth by putting himself in the right place at the right time. That place was Russia and the time was when the state enterprises were being sold off for a pittance, the process by which unimaginable wealth was transferred from the people to the very small group of people now known to us as the oligarchs. He became his own hedge fund manager and he used clients' money to make huge returns for them and himself. He made hay while the sun shone but he and those around him have paid a high price for that financial gain. He battled against the oligarchs who deviously brought down the value of his fund but eventually he overcame their challenge. It was a different matter when he took on the officials and politicians who used the forces of the state to enrich themselves at the expense of the oligarchs and Bill Browder's western capitalists.
The book is hard to put down and I was gripped by the personal and financial roller coaster that Browder was riding while he battled to make money. or make back money, in Russia against ever-increasing odds. His writing is very compelling, so good infact that I was with him nearly all the way. By his account the Russian state is corrupt to its core and those who are running will stop at nothing to destroy their enemies. We have the evidence of Litvinenko and others whose deaths dispel any doubt we might have as to the nature of the beast.
The last section of the book focuses of Sergei Magnitsky the real victim in this battle of the beasts. He was of Browder's young lawyers who refused to flee Russia for his personal safety because he believed that truth would win out and that the legal system was robust and righteous. He paid with his life for that error of judgement. Browder then uses all of his high placed-networking contacts to strike back at the Russians.
The book is finished but the story is not done. Browder is living in fear of his life in London, waiting for the Russians to come for him. Part of the reason for writing this book is to get it out there by naming his murderer as Putin before the act takes place. As I said at the start this is a chilling and frightening account which reads like a thriller. Not the sort of thrills I would like to live but thrilling for the voyeur.
In these days when the concept of right and wrong in business life and political life has been replaced by relativism it is perhaps worth bearing in mind that there's a bit of that in this book. A hedge fund manager who makes a fortune in the situation described in this book may be a hero to some but not to me. However when compared to the other protagonists in this story he is the good guy, no doubt about it.
That is not an easy decision for any person to make- but not many have to make that decision and not many have to take on a government machine like that of the Russian Federation.
Magnitsky is deservedly remembered through the efforts of having a person like Browder so doggedly and determinedly pursue justice on his behalf. It does credit to his memory that this matter has been, and continues to be pursued in his name. What he suffered is beyond our imagination- however it is depicted in this book because the Russian ‘penal’ system must be one of the most cruel and venal in the world for a ‘modern’ country.
Those of us living in the ‘west’ should take comfort from a degree of protection that we assume from such governmental abuses, but it should be a call for citizens to remain vigilant as to any erosion of those mechanisms that deliver such freedoms that we take for granted.
What is also concerning are the wider issues and implications this book raises in respect to the moral failings of the west to deal with such abuses of power and the evident overriding considerations of placing profit and money above the welfare of to citizens. Successive UK governments and the FCO come across as being compromised through their apparent indifference and their adherence to misplaced and misconceived ‘realpolitik’ concerns in respect to ‘money’ as an overriding consideration. As do once again the international banks and legal firms who cosmetically deliver so much legitimacy to those parties who take advantage of and derive said legitimacy through their (in)actions in bringing some moral judgement to their decisions as to whom they deal with. And that does not just apply to just the Russians. There are wider issues here that are a sad indictment of the system and an indicator of how morally bankrupt so much of it is.
One cannot help but speculate that if the west had taken a much more morally robust stance on so many fronts with so many governments, that possibly a more desirable, safer and less confrontational course of history could have been achieved. Ultimately the cost will be greater.
All it does take for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
The author, Bill Browder, created Hermitage capital and was initially an eminently successful fund manager operating in Russia. His success was due to his detecting investing opportunities following privatization in the post-Soviet Union, Russia. He overcame initial reaction by Russian oligarchs. At a subsequent stage, however, the oligarchs assisted by the Russian Government had the upper hand which forced the author to transfer all his assets to the West, leaving in Russia only shell companies. He was surprised that his companies, devoid of money, were raided by the police. But there was a Machiavellian plot behind the raids. The perpetrators transferred fraudulently the companies to them and subsequently were successful in obtaining a tax rebate of $230 million which was paid by the Browder companies during the boom years. In effect Government employees stole from the state and deprived Russian citizens from this money. Browder attempted to fight the the fraud resorting to Russian courts, employing criminal lawyers among them Sergei Magnitsky. But the exercise boomeranged and in a collusion between the Interior Ministry and the police, courts and judges and the Russian Internal Revenue Service, Sergei Magnitsky was accused with fraud, found guilty, imprisoned, tortured and heroically dying in prison while persisting in his innocence and accusing them of the fraud. But this was not the final act, Bill Browder embarked in a crusade which led to legislation ratified by the Congress, appropriately named the Magnitsky act whereby all involved in the fraud, conviction and death of Sergei Magnitsky had their visas banned from travelling to the United States and whatever assets they had in the United States were frozen. Subsequently, similar legislation unanimously passed in the European Parliament.
The above is in a nutshell the essence of the book extending to 468 pages and indeed a compelling read.
Without giving too much away, Browder attempts to take on organized crime and the Russian authorities (who, you could argue, are the largest organized crime group in the world!) in memory of his friend and associate Magnitsky.
Browder comes across as someone who is trying to do the right thing but you have to wonder whether he was naive or just let greed overcome him when he started to invest in Russia. A part of me suspects that Browder was initially greedy and arrogant in his thinking and believed he would be able to take on the Russians in their backyard and for him and his associates to be impervious to their actions. I can't believe that he didn't know that business is not done according to his rules in these parts of the world but maybe, at the time,the way of thinking may have been different. I think as he starts to see the way the Russian system works, he starts to understand and maybe regret that he was naive in his outlook and tries to fight to atone for his mistakes. But fair play, in this book, he totally exposes the Russian state's corruption in this matter and their attempts to cover things up.
I enjoyed reading the story and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys political thrillers, current affairs or is interested in organized crime but the last quarter of the book was much slower as he details his fight to get legislation and justice for Magnitsky.
But ultimately, am I surprised politicians and civil servants are greedy and corrupt, that Russia is a very dodgy place to do business and where there is lots of money to be made, there are people who will do very unsavoury things to get it? I might not have a MBA from Harvard but I'm not.
I thoroughly enjoyed Red Notice. Both a fascinating and frightening read, it gives an insight into Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I had to remind myself on numerous occasions that I was not reading a fictional thriller but a real life account of one man’s experiences in modern day Russia. Recommended.
I don't know what to say about this book because the Russian regime was so shocking in what it did. It opens one's eyes to the unconditional bravery of Sergei and the author's hell-bent determination to see justice done for the murder of Sergei.
It would have been so easy for Putin to have seen sense and imprisoned the thieves, villains, murderers, corrupt and poisonous members of certain areas of his government and police service. And we would have said "well done Sir". But no didn't. He still has his chance to be the big man and come clean - I wonder if ever that will happen?
This is a must read for anyone with a heart.