Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice

A real-life political thriller about an American financier in the Wild East of Russia, the murder of his principled young tax attorney, and his dangerous mission to expose the Kremlin's corruption.Bill Browder's journey started on the South Side of Chicago and moved through Stanford Business School to the dog-eat-dog world of hedge fund investing in the 1990s. It continued...

Title:Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice
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Edition Language:English

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice Reviews

  • PDXReader

    This book was a complete surprise to me. I thought that perhaps it would be dry, or more likely over my head because I know so little about the world of finance. Fortunately, my fears proved unfounded; the book was very approachable and entertaining.

    There are two parts to the author's story, both of which are equally involving but in different ways. The first 150 pp or so outline how Browder developed his business in Russia and he details his stunning wins and losses in a disarmingly honest and

    This book was a complete surprise to me. I thought that perhaps it would be dry, or more likely over my head because I know so little about the world of finance. Fortunately, my fears proved unfounded; the book was very approachable and entertaining.

    There are two parts to the author's story, both of which are equally involving but in different ways. The first 150 pp or so outline how Browder developed his business in Russia and he details his stunning wins and losses in a disarmingly honest and humble way. I found myself quite amused by his adventures and his straight-forward manner of story-telling kept me engaged.

    The second part of the book is much darker as he finds himself on the wrong side of some very powerful men - with truly heartbreaking results. The tragedy he feels partly responsible for turns Browder into a human rights activist as he seeks justice for victims of Russian human rights violators. His quest for retribution is equally engrossing.

  • H Wesselius

    An interesting and entertaining read. Only marred by the self righteous tone of an author. Browder can't see beyond his own perspective. After cleaning out Russia by purchasing underpriced stock and turning it around for a quick profit. Once he achieved his millions he suddenly found a conscience. My sympathy lies with the Russian activists and people who've been wronged by both the oligarchs and the western businessman.

  • L.A. Starks

    This stunningly good book is authored by a world-class trader who, when he loses a friend to imprisonment, torture, and death from Putin's regime, goes all-out--slowly, deliberately--to avenge his friend. The trader is Bill Browder, the friend is Sergei Magnitsky, and the story is a true one. This makes the book more compelling than even the best fictional thriller. Putin's lack of conscience is no act, yet Browder describes a president and a now-secretary of state who naively want to pursue a r

    This stunningly good book is authored by a world-class trader who, when he loses a friend to imprisonment, torture, and death from Putin's regime, goes all-out--slowly, deliberately--to avenge his friend. The trader is Bill Browder, the friend is Sergei Magnitsky, and the story is a true one. This makes the book more compelling than even the best fictional thriller. Putin's lack of conscience is no act, yet Browder describes a president and a now-secretary of state who naively want to pursue a reset with this coldest of killers.

    The only thing, and it is the most minor of points, is that Browder calculates Gazprom's natural gas value on a basis equivalent to oil, which it is not.

    Red Notice is a story of brave men and women acting honorably in a shifting, lawless country. It provides phenomenal insight into current-day Russia.

  • Frances

    Born into a left-wing family in America, Bill Browder attended a boarding school where he became quite rebellious and very unsettled. Not happy with his home life he made the decision to become a capitalist knowing that it would surely upset his parents. However, once he settled down with his studies he was soon accepted into Standford University and on his way to becoming everything he ever wanted to be. By becoming the largest foreign investor in Russia running his own investment firm, he went

    Born into a left-wing family in America, Bill Browder attended a boarding school where he became quite rebellious and very unsettled. Not happy with his home life he made the decision to become a capitalist knowing that it would surely upset his parents. However, once he settled down with his studies he was soon accepted into Standford University and on his way to becoming everything he ever wanted to be. By becoming the largest foreign investor in Russia running his own investment firm, he went well beyond his aspirations. Flying back and forth between London and Moscow for several years all seemed to be going to plan. However, something changed quite dramatically that would forever transform his life. Completely blindsided by top Russian officials he had no idea the tremendous fight he would face to secure his company, keep the wealth it had created, and protect his associates. Author, Bill Browder pulls no punches in this true story of his rise as a prominent investor in a country that essentially does what it wants with no repercussions whatsoever. Red Notice is powerful, and undeniably a riveting story. Mr. Browder possesses a high sense of integrity with a great deal of compassion, and is very brave to try and make his story heard around the world. Highly recommended!

  • Hadrian

    The main lesson of this volume is the documentation of how far Russia has slid into kleptocracy, where the rule of law had become only a tool used to extort, to destroy, and to consolidate the gains of a select few.

    To recap - Russia around 1995-1996 was at a low ebb. President Yeltsin's popularity was at about 4%, and cabinet ministers and close family members were about to be charged with corruption. The economy was in dismal shape, and Russia would default on its debt by 1998. The Communist P

    The main lesson of this volume is the documentation of how far Russia has slid into kleptocracy, where the rule of law had become only a tool used to extort, to destroy, and to consolidate the gains of a select few.

    To recap - Russia around 1995-1996 was at a low ebb. President Yeltsin's popularity was at about 4%, and cabinet ministers and close family members were about to be charged with corruption. The economy was in dismal shape, and Russia would default on its debt by 1998. The Communist Party was expected to win the upcoming elections, and yet Gennedy Zhuganov had made assurances to foreign investors that he would not re-nationalize privatized property. Few believed him.

    Enter Bill Browder, grandson of the founder of the Communist Party-USA. He saw opportunity in the Russian market, from the tumult of privatization. Not the 'loans-for-shares' model, which was a disaster, but the relatively transparent process of 'voucher' privatization. Vouchers were issued to Russian citizens, and they were supposed to be exchanged for shares in privatized Russian companies. But these were given away or traded for goods much smaller in value. Browder was able to snatch these up at about $20/voucher. Now take some back of the envelope math - 150,000,000 vouchers produced, $20/voucher, and these were supposed to account for almost a third of the Russian economy. $3 billion. This meant that the early privatizers valued the entire Russian economy to be only $10 billion!

    He had made a bundle off of privatization in Poland, which was already on the up-and-up, but Russia was a more difficult point of entry. After obtaining $25 million in seed money from Republic New York and made his gamble. Then Yeltsin won in 1996, and the markets breathed a sigh of relief.

    While financially successful, Browder faced multiple challenges, including dealings with corrupt oligarchs, and then losing much of his fund's value in the 1998 default. Yet at the time, he still felt Russia was on an upward trajectory. Then came the election of Vladimir Putin in 1999, the muzzling of political opponents, and suspicious bombing attempts in Ryazan.

    Browder at first, was not concerned with this - he had made a massive fortune off of Gazprom. But then everyone was frightened by the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of the most powerful oligarchs. Browder is more right to speculate this was a major moment in the shifting of the balance of power between oligarchs and Putin - far from being a Communist ideologue, Putin demanded instead a large cut of their business as protection money.

    Browder, to his credit, saw the writing on the wall, and began moving his personnel out of the country. After refusing to pay a bribe to a KGB colonel, his offices were raided and their original titles and other documents were confiscated - and then took advantage of a law where the possessor of such documents has control over the company. He filed complaints and presented his evidence, only to found the official from the State Investigating Committee assigned to his case was the man he refused to bribe.

    By 2008, Browder had evacuated all but one of his staff - a lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. He was arrested in November 2008, and found beaten to death in his cell in 2009.

    The rest of the book is dedicated to the 'Magnitsky effect', of bills passing targeted sanctions against high officials responsible for Magnitsky's death. The book ends with the passage of the Magnitsky Act in the United States in 2012, though similar laws have now been passed (as of this writing) in Estonia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Lithuania. The virulent reaction to this law from the Russian government only confirms the nature of their regime.

    If nothing else, the story of Magnitsky shows the dangers of doing business with an openly thieving regime - and should raise suspicions in those countries who depend on a single Russian energy supply, or take in an excess of dirty money. The most egregious example may yet be Donald himself.

  • Esil

    3 1/2 stars. I listened to the audio of Red Notice. It was fascinating and I have no regrets about listening to it, but there were a few things that grated on me enough to knock off a 1/2 star from what would otherwise have been a solid 4 stars. In Red Notice, Bill Browder recounts his involvement in the world of high finance in Russia, events which ultimately led to the arrest, torture and death of one of his lawyers, and which transformed Browder from manager of a multi billion dollar investme

    3 1/2 stars. I listened to the audio of Red Notice. It was fascinating and I have no regrets about listening to it, but there were a few things that grated on me enough to knock off a 1/2 star from what would otherwise have been a solid 4 stars. In Red Notice, Bill Browder recounts his involvement in the world of high finance in Russia, events which ultimately led to the arrest, torture and death of one of his lawyers, and which transformed Browder from manager of a multi billion dollar investment fund to a human rights activist. Browder recounts this life journey in a lot of detail, describing his own background and the worlds in which he found himself. As a young graduate of the Stanford business school in the late 1980s, he decided that he would enter into the newly available Russian investment market. His strategy was to buy shares of under valued newly privatized companies, and to make them available to foreign investors. He made a tremendous amount of money for himself and for others, and he also made many enemies in Russia because he made so much money and also had a tendency to sniff out and call attention to serious cases of corruption. Ultimately, this success and bullishness led to his expulsion from Russia and to the torture and death of his lawyer who refused to provide false evidence against Browder and his fund. The Russia Browder depicts is corrupt and brutal, and part of his point is that things are not very different from the days of communism. I found all of this fascinating and chilling. I also have a friend who does business in Russia, who tells me that the world Browder describes is dead on. What irked me about the book was Browder's unabashed self-aggrandizement and lack of self reflection. There is no recognition that there was nothing noble about going to Russia in the early 1990s to capitalize on its newly open market, and that Browder's own troubles essentially come from his attempt to earn piles of money on the back of the Russians' lack of experience in a free market. The corrupt oligarchs and politicos in Russia have no higher moral ground to claim, but all involved -- including Browder -- were motivated by some pretty over the top greed. Again, it's an interesting book and it reveals a very chilling side of contemporary Russia, but I struggled to feel sympathy for Browder -- although I certainly felt a tremendous amount of sympathy for his lawyer and all who were physically threatened or exiled as a result of the events depicted in the book.

    A note on the audio: The narrator's voice is engaged and easy to listen to, but it does come across as arrogant which may explain some of my reservation about the book. The very last chapter is narrated by Browder himself, and I found his own voice much more sympathetic.

  • Ctgt

    I was vaguely aware of this story as it related to Putin and his ban of U.S. adoptions of Russian orphans back in 2012 but never really knew the details.

    The title does a very good job of breaking down the arc of the book with the first section concentrating on Browder, his schooling and how he ended up in Russia. The most fascinating part was discovering that Browder's grandfather was the leader of the American Communist Party and ran for president on the communist ticket in 1936 and 1940. Both

    I was vaguely aware of this story as it related to Putin and his ban of U.S. adoptions of Russian orphans back in 2012 but never really knew the details.

    The title does a very good job of breaking down the arc of the book with the first section concentrating on Browder, his schooling and how he ended up in Russia. The most fascinating part was discovering that Browder's grandfather was the leader of the American Communist Party and ran for president on the communist ticket in 1936 and 1940. Both of his parents were academics and his older brother entered the PhD program in physics at the age of nineteen, Bill on the other hand, had little interest in academics and chose his boarding school based on his interest in skiing. He continued to rebel while in boarding school and his parents ended up sending him to doctors, counselors and psychiatrists.

    He still had an interest in Russia stemming back to his grandfather and through a series of jobs ends up in the wild west of the Russian conversion from communism to capitalism. For a time he and his Hermitage Group were the largest foreign investors in Russia.

    Then the story starts to turn as Browder and his employees discover and expose massive instances of fraud and corruption not only with the oligarchs but also in the Russian government. After a few early successes the tides turn and now he and his company start to be targeted by the police and various criminal elements. Browder himself is kicked out of the country and harassment of his employees still in Russia continues. In fact it increases to the point that several of his people have to sneak out of the country for fear of arrest. This whole section culminates with the death in prison of one of his lawyers, Sergei Magnitsky.

    Feeling crushed and responsible, Browder turns his efforts to seeking justice for the death of Magnitsky. The rest of the book follows these efforts.

    This was a very quick read for me, it was paced like a fiction thriller and at times almost brought me to tears as I thought about Mr. Magnitsky, what he went through in prison as the authorities tried to force him to recant charges he had filed against them and the courage to refuse to change his stance or supply false statements about his co-workers. It is heartbreaking to think about the hopes everyone had for Russia and to realize that after these past several decades, very little seems to have changed for the average Russian citizen.

  • Trish

    Bill Browder has a fascinating tale to tell, of his family background as the grandson of a noted Communist, of his math-whiz father and mother, of his physicist brother. He was the black sheep of the family…until he became a billionaire in his thirties by investing in undervalued Russian oil stocks. His first foray into Russia, to advise the Murmansk Trawler Fleet on privatization, must go down in the annals as a classic of West meets East. The whole story of Browder’s rise to wealth, with its m

    Bill Browder has a fascinating tale to tell, of his family background as the grandson of a noted Communist, of his math-whiz father and mother, of his physicist brother. He was the black sheep of the family…until he became a billionaire in his thirties by investing in undervalued Russian oil stocks. His first foray into Russia, to advise the Murmansk Trawler Fleet on privatization, must go down in the annals as a classic of West meets East. The whole story of Browder’s rise to wealth, with its moments of terrifying vertigo as markets collapsed with the Asian economic crisis in 1997, is propulsive and gripping. But more was to come, and no one could imagine the way the saga unfolded.

    A red notice is issued by Interpol for the provisional arrest and extradition of an individual for whom an arrest warrant has been issued in the requesting country. Russia requested a red notice from Interpol with regard to Bill Browder, charging him in absentia with tax evasion among other crimes, including the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, a Browder lawyer who perished in a Russian jail after medical interventions were withheld. This book tells the story of how Magnitsky’s oppressors became international pariahs, had their U.S.-based assets frozen and visas revoked or refused, a result of The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act passed in the United States in December 2012.

    Browder’s Hermitage Capital Management hedge fund still operates, though after his expulsion from Russia Browder was obliged to expand his investment purview, opening Hermitage Global which focused on emerging markets. Hermitage Capital Management almost from its inception was an activist fund which exposed criminal wrongdoing by majority shareholders in undervaluing or “stealing” company assets in order to allow profits to flow to corrupt bureaucrats and their businessmen partners. Browder would purchase a minority share in a [often large oil] company, and then expose how the shares were undervalued, prompting many investors to jump into the market for the shares, enriching Browder. One year Browder paid $230 million in income taxes to the Russian state on $1.3 billion in profits. It is just this sum which was later the subject of Russia’s state investigation.

    Putin and his circle including Medvedev are implicated in Browder’s story, though Browder shows how Putin was initially outraged at the theft of assets from state coffers, back at the beginning of Browder’s hedge fund successes. Actually, the whole setup—the issuing of vouchers to every Russian for “ownership” of state assets—is a fascinating history that requires further investigation. This compelling story of Browder and Magnitsky does what good nonfiction is meant to do: it makes you hungry for more depth, more history, more info on Putin, Pussy Riot, and Russia itself.

    Browder’s writing is best in the beginning, when he tells of his early interest in East European stocks and how he came to look at the investment banking scene. It is pure Michael Lewis-style disbelief at the life of a Wall Street banker. We revel, then, when he sets off on his own, scaring up seed money and taking chances. Browder also shares his personal life, his expensive (and often working) vacations, including resort names, which allowing us a little vicarious vacationing ourselves.

    If Browder’s gee whiz writing style began to grate a little by the end, and become a little less believable coming from a much older and wiser billionaire, I put it down to his awareness of his role in creating the disaster that resulted in the need for the Magnitsky Act. There may be something inherently corrupting about making vast amounts of money, albeit perfectly legally, by exploiting the discrepancies in unfair or exploitative valuations as a result of societal and political dislocations. There appears to be no shortage of real oppression in Russia today, and laws have not been robust enough to protect people from exploitation. It looks like a place where we can see naked human nature on display. I thank Browder for the introduction.

  • Caroline

    I don't have time to review this book properly. In a nutshell, I was fascinated by the first half of it - all about the author learning to become a hedge fund manager, and his experiences in Russia and the highs and the lows of that experience. These included him getting immensely tangled in the often corrupt jungle that is the Russian business world, taking on some of the oligarchs, and some of the major companies on the Russian scene, like Gazprom. At first Putin welcomed his interventions, b

    I don't have time to review this book properly. In a nutshell, I was fascinated by the first half of it - all about the author learning to become a hedge fund manager, and his experiences in Russia and the highs and the lows of that experience. These included him getting immensely tangled in the often corrupt jungle that is the Russian business world, taking on some of the oligarchs, and some of the major companies on the Russian scene, like Gazprom. At first Putin welcomed his interventions, but after a while he didn't...and then things got very nasty.

    I skim read the latter half of the book, which was more focused on the fake legal wrangles concerning his Russian company, and the prosecution, torture and death of his lawyer. Bill Browder has spent several years of his life trying to bring his lawyer's dreadful treatment to the attention of the world, particularly to the attention of the governing bodies in America and Europe.

    I would give the first half of the book 5 stars, and the second half 2 stars....and that very much reflects my interests, not any falling off in the quality of the book.

    The main reason I am posting anything here is to have a note of this talk that he gave at Oxford University. It is well worth a listen. (It's not as long as it looks - the bulk of it is Q & A....)

  • HBalikov

    It’s 2017 and we all are looking forward to seeing how “the art of the deal” as practiced by our new president works out. How often will it be involving his friend in Russia? What better time to read Bill Browder’s page turner about his years deal-making in Russia and how he barely escaped being tucked away in some Siberian gulag.

    Browder recounts how he came to the financial world and how he became an expert in privatization of state-run companies in Eastern Europe and Russia. He has an excelle

    It’s 2017 and we all are looking forward to seeing how “the art of the deal” as practiced by our new president works out. How often will it be involving his friend in Russia? What better time to read Bill Browder’s page turner about his years deal-making in Russia and how he barely escaped being tucked away in some Siberian gulag.

    Browder recounts how he came to the financial world and how he became an expert in privatization of state-run companies in Eastern Europe and Russia. He has an excellent sense of how to tell an anecdote, holding the reader spellbound until the punch line.

    Here is a fable that he offers to illustrate the Russian mindset that he says he had to confront in his years running an investment fund in Russia and based on privatization of Russia’s industries.

    “A poor villager happens upon a magic talking fish that is ready to grant him a single wish. Overjoyed, the villager weighs the options: ‘Maybe a castle? Or even better – a thousand bars of gold? Why not a ship to sail the world?” As the villager is about to make his decision, the fish interrupts him to say that there is one important caveat: whatever the villager gets, his neighbor will receive two of the same. Without skipping a beat, the villager says, ‘In that case, please poke one of my eyes out.’”

    Browder says, “Russians will gladly --- gleefully, even --- sacrifice their own success to screw their neighbor.” Browder was based there from the Yeltsin revolution through the early days of Putin’s regime. He gets rich but then tries, according to his narrative, to change the underlying game and address the corruption that is endemic to the oligarchic era. In doing so, he becomes an enemy of the Putin regime and his life and the lives of those around him are in constant jeopardy.

    It is hard not to have Deep Throat’s admonition (“Follow the money.”) ringing in your ears as this story plays out. I can’t tell you much more without spoiling the impact of Browder’s story.

    Among the questions that you will have to determine are:

     Is Browder telling

     The truth?

     The whole truth?

     Nothing but the truth?

     How much of this is based on pure ambition?

     How much reflects his rebellion against his parents’ fervent communist beliefs?

     How much does having his own family change his style and his judgments?

    The book places Browder near the center of Russian history during this period. Is this his ego, or was he so different from almost every other foreigner that he could command such attention from Putin’s government? Browder makes it sound as if the things that happened were first directed at him and then, to cover the vendetta, broadened to apply to other Americans and foreigners. But he puts his finger on something that resonates with what we are seeing in Russia with trade and Putin’s foreign policy right now. “….Russian business culture is closer to that of a prison yard than anything else. In prison, all you have is your reputation. Your position is hard-earned and it is not relinquished easily. When someone is crossing the yard coming for you, you cannot stand idly by. You have to kill him before he kills you. If you don’t, and if you manage to survive the attack, you’ll be deemed weak and before you know it, you will have lost your respect and become someone’s bitch. This is the calculus that every oligarch and every Russian politician goes through every day.”

    Whether you read this as autobiography or creative fiction, you will find yourself drawn to the cliff-hangers and you might find plenty that will illuminate some of the questions being raised now about how the Russians mix business and politics.

    To get a more complete picture of how this fits into our national situation and world interests, I recommend reading either Taibbi’s The Divide, or Dark Money by Jane Mayer.


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