THE ADVOCATE 927
VOL. 76 PART 6 NOVEMBER 2018
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for
Justice by Bill Browder (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015), 416 pages,
Reviewed by James Tate
At 9:00 p.m. on Monday, November 16, 2009, Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky
was found dead on the cold, hard floor of a Moscow jail cell. During
almost a full year of detention, without charges, Magnitsky had developed
serious health problems, including pancreatitis, gallstones and cholecystitis.
His requests for treatment had been repeatedly rejected by Russian officials
and courts. On that fateful Monday, he had fallen into critical
condition before being transported to a different prison, purportedly for
medical treatment. Instead he was thrown in an isolation cell and beaten by
prison guards with rubber batons. One hour and eighteen minutes after he
had arrived for “treatment”, Sergei Magnitsky was found dead by a civilian
doctor. He was 37 years old, married, with two school-aged sons.
One of Magnitsky’s clients was investment fund manager, and now
human rights activist, Bill Browder. Browder has penned a remarkable
book: Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight
for Justice, within which the reader finds three extraordinary stories.
The first part of Red Notice is a gripping tale of how Browder, the grandson
of a former leader of the U.S. Communist Party, became a massively successful
financier in the newly open and largely unregulated wilds of Russian
capitalism during the late ’90s and early 2000s. In clear and compelling
passages, Browder describes the roller coaster ride of doing business within
a corporate culture that he likens to a prison yard.
Within this ruthless system, Browder landed on what at first appeared to
be an ideal investment model. Browder’s corporate research uncovered
rampant pilfering of assets by newly minted oligarchs within several of Russia’s
largest public companies, including the massive energy company
Gazprom and Russia’s national electricity company UES. However, his
research also showed that while corporate assets had been stolen with
impunity, significant intact value remained in each company—value the
market had failed to recognize.
In the early 2000s, Browder’s Hermitage Fund “bought the shit” out of
those undervalued stocks. He would then turn his research over to the
media, who exposed the corrupt practices of the oligarchs. The relatively
new president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, used the public
exposure of the oligarchs to ostensibly “clean up” the companies, in some