Red Notice: How I Became Putin's No. 1 Enemy

by Bill. Browder

Hardcover, 2015




Bantam Press (2015)


"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"

User reviews

LibraryThing member kellifrobinson
This is the story of one man's 25-year journey from Stanford Business School to ultra-successful hedge fund manager to human rights activist. This is also the story of one particularly brave Russian lawyer who made the ultimate sacrifice in his fight for justice. Although (in my opinion) no government is completely free of corruption, Bill Browder lays out in excruciating and heartbreaking detail the extent of corruption, lawlessness, and human rights abuses in today's Russia. Browder strongly believes that Vladimir Putin or members of his regime will have him killed one day. Once you read this book, you will understand why Browder's fear is very much justified, and why we should all be worried.… (more)
LibraryThing member BrianEWilliams
An incredible and shocking expose of "official corruption" (that's a good oxymoron) in Russia. The story traces Browder's life and initial success as an investor in Russian businesses as they are privatized after the collapse of the USSR. The oligarchs get really greedy after the Russian economy tanks in the late 1990's and they lose their incentives to stay clean. They start to steal money from Western investors, aided and abetted by Russian officials. The government officials learn from the oligarchs and start to steal too; Browder suggests that includes Putin. Browder calls them all on that and soon comes under attack himself. He gets deported from Russia but manages to get his assets out of the country. Unfortunately one of his tax attorneys pays the ultimate price of standing up to the bad behaviour, and he is imprisoned, beaten and tortured to death. Browder, an American with British citizenship, gets no support at all from the British government. He turns to the press and the internet to bring his story to the public. This works, but not always. In the end it is the U.S. that supports him although he runs afoul of the Obama "reset" and then Senator John Kerry's plan to become Secretary of State. (Secretary of State Clinton did nothing to support him either, probably because she was too busy travelling.) It was several Senators from both parties that sponsored legislation to ban the Russian officials from the US (which infuriated the Russians --read that as Putin). This legislation passed only after a lot of resistance from Kerry.

The book reads like a spy thriller and sometimes you say: "this can't be going on". It's a damning portrayal of the Russian establishment.

A sobering lesson to those who live or work outside North America.
… (more)
LibraryThing member LynnB
This non-fiction book is almost unbelievable. It's a real eye-opener for someone like me who lives in a free, democratic country. Well written, riveting story about a former hedge fund manager's search for justice and accountability from Vladimir Putin and his government.

In addition to the issues raised by the book, I also reflected on Mr. Browder's continued work and the impact this must have on his wife and young children. I wonder how far I would go if I thought the safety of my family was at risk?… (more)
LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
Whew, what a book! I wish I could give it ten stars! I wish I could put it in the hands of everyone I know and then some! I wish I could put it in the hands of President Trump and everyone he deals with because the Russia we all think of is not the Russia that exists in the world today. It will never become a country that considers the rights of human beings, children or those being victimized. It is self-serving and vindictive beyond anything an American could possibly conceive of, because their world, with all of its warts, is far superior in all ways than a Russia ruled by Putin.
Bill Browder, as a young American, made his fortune by uncovering and exposing Russian oligarchs engaged in fraudulent business practices in order to enrich themselves. He was the head of The Heritage Capital Management Investment Fund, a billion dollar Russian hedge fund. Too soon, he found himself embroiled in one of the biggest Russian scandals of the century. Unbelievably, it also began to involve the biggest oligarch of all, Vladimir Putin, a man who would stop at nothing to achieve his goals. A former KGB agent, he was a good communist and was the head of the Russian government and its people. He was brutal and respected no laws but his own. He was, indeed, the supreme dictator, protected by all those who feared that defying them would cost them their lives or place them in prison for years. The whole imbroglio began, quite unexpectedly, in 2005, when Bill Browder was delayed at the Russian airport and denied entry into the country. There was some kind of a visa problem. After many hours in which he was made to wait without food or drink, sitting on a hard chair, he was summarily declared persona non grata, without explanation, and escorted to a plane and forcibly expelled from Russia.
The first third of the book takes the reader through his background, his ultimate rise and fall and rise again on the economic spectrum, which enabled him to become one of the wealthiest foreign businessmen in Russia, although also one of the most feared and hated by the government or those in power. Browder naively believed he was untouchable in a corrupt country where truth is whatever the leader says it is and has no relationship whatsoever with reality. Self-preservation governs the behavior of most people involved in the business, government and private world of this dictatorship. One’s fortune could turn on a dime from good to bad and back again, or not. What happened to Bill happened because he believed he was above the workings of the Russian government, above their corruption, however, corruption was alive and well and prospering.
When his efforts to expose corruption no longer served the needs of Putin, but defied him in his own efforts to amass a personal fortune, Browder was in deep trouble with no one able to throw him a life preserver. As his efforts to save his fund and himself become almost impossible, Browder decides to tell all. He engages the top people in Russian affairs to assist him in both England and Russia, but the wheels of justice turn very slowly, if at all, in that corner of the world. Politics played a part front and center, inhibiting his efforts to put out the truth about how he was being blackmailed and falsely accused of crimes he did not commit. Someone was trying to steal his business and destroy his life and his reputation.
Browder engages Sergei Magnitsky to represent him legally, and this sets the story in motion. It doesn’t seem real, but it sadly is too real. Magnitsky is unable to reverse the effort to bankrupt Browder and strip him of influence. Someone high up must be behind it all because records have been falsified and money has changed hands with forged documents that point at Browder and his associates. What begins as a case of tax fraud snowballs into a monumental fraudulent scheme which goes on for years and effects the lives of many people who reside inside and outside of Russia. As the issue becomes more and more convoluted and circuitous, with no discernible way to preserve his business, those involved soon realize that their very lives are in danger. Corrupt factions have the power of unknown, powerful authorities behind them; they can raid and confiscate any business and then steal their records with impunity. No one, no country, no organization seems able to intercede and prevent their crimes. They have all the cards. Diplomacy seems meaningless. Sanctions are ineffective. Politics takes the center stage and interferes in the just handling of this travesty of justice.
When, ultimately, Magnitsky is found dead in his jail cell, at the age of 37, after being held for months without justification or evidence of a crime, Browder is devastated. Magnitsky has suffered terrible deprivation, torture and solitude. He had no recourse to a just system. No one listened to Browder’s tale of woe. England and the United States, the Hague and others, all put politics first until the final curtain came down. Then the full force of the danger theywere all in dawned on others and some were willing to listen as Browder decided to devote himself to get justice for Sergei and guarantee that he did not die in vain.
Politics seems to supersede human rights in many stages of this fight for justice, as he makes every effort to punish those responsible. There are those that were motiviated to help him, some out of guilt for having originally ignored his story of the fraud and corruption being perpetrated by those in power in Russia, and some were genuinely moved by the horrific nature of the offense Russia committed against an ordinary citizen once they learned of it. Some stand out for their outstanding effort to seek justice for Sergei Magnitsky. Senator Ben Cardin, Senator Joe Lieberman and others were soon in his corner. But the Obama administration and Senator Kerry were obstacles that stood steadfastly in the way of having the Magnitsky Act (It was originally called the Russia and Moldova Jackson–Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 ) passed; why would they want to prevent the passage of this Act? They stood in the way of the law that would punish all those involved in such heinous behavior for their own personal, political gain. The Obama administration wanted to reset its relationship with Russia and feared supporting the Act would derail the effort. (This is exactly the opposite viewpoint of the Democrats today, illustrating another purely political motive.) Senator John Kerry wanted to become the next Secretary of State, replacing the seat vacated by Hillary Clinton. The Magnitsky Act which would prevent those on the list from traveling to the United States and which would freeze their assets in the United States banks, was almost derailed by purely political and selfish intentions
Every page in this book fills the reader with anticipation of some other roadblock, threat or injustice which will prevent the realization of a victory for those who were unfairly and unjustly placed in harm’s way, for those who were murdered in the effort to hide the truth when no amount of torture could force a false confession. When another of the whistleblowers was also found dead, as the Magnitsky Act was finally passed on December 14, 2012, Browder realized they were all still in grave danger. Russia did not like to lose and the thugs who created the problem and stole the money were angry. They wanted revenge and were determined to get it.
Bill Browder, now a British citizen, had a fine education. He attended the University of Colorado, The University of Chicago and Stanford Business School. His father was a mathematics professor at Harvard in Cambridge, MA. His grandfather had been the head of the Communist Party and twice ran for President of the United States, unsuccessfully. In defiance of the extreme socialist view he was exposed to, he decided to pursue his ill-fated career in capitalism. This book reads like a spy novel written by a best-selling author. The pages turn themselves as each threat to Bill and his employees and associates is exposed and as each action taken puts all of them in more and more danger. The very idea that this is a true story will defy the reader’s imagination.
*** In 2016, a version of the Magnitsky Act, which was championed by Ben Cardin from its inception, was passed by Congress. This Act expanded the power of the original version and allowed The United States to place sanctions on any foreign government officials found guilty of human rights abuses anyplace in the world.
… (more)
LibraryThing member streamsong
“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.” P 125

Absolutely compelling. Having no financial background, I had no idea that a book written about the author’s experiences with hedge funds in Russia could be so fascinating.

It gives an important look into Putin, the oligarchs and Russia today. Although President Trump is not mentioned in the book, I believe it helps explain our current administration’s very troubling attitude toward Russia.

If I were to make a list of contemporary books that everyone should read, this one would be on it.… (more)
LibraryThing member carolfoisset
Crazy that this is a true story! Hard to put down - a must read if you want more insight into Russia and how things work in Putin's world. Very interested in all things Browder now!
LibraryThing member MaggieFlo
If you ever wondered just how corrupt the current Putin government is, you must read this book. It details the story of Bill Browder, an American born and educated financial investor who discovers early on in post communist Russia, that there is a huge market for foreign investment. He establishes the Hermitage fund and searches out undervalued oil and gas stocks and makes a lot of money for his investors. Eventually his above board methods draw the attention of the oligarchs and Russian mafia who set out to steal his investments through fraudulent means and with the cooperation of the Putin government. Very well told and detailed. Browder ends up as an advocate for Human rights in the Soviet Union because of the death of one of his employees at the hands of government officials.

Sent from my iPad
… (more)
LibraryThing member Meredy
An extraordinary work that ought to be read by anyone who is affected by the international politics of today (who isn't?) and especially by anyone who wants to understand what goes on between the U.S. and Russia. For one thing, that infamous Trump Tower meeting of June 2016 (not mentioned in this 2015 book) takes on a great deal more meaning than might appear on the surface. Russian adoptions? Yes, in fact that is a real issue, and tied to a much greater one: the Magnitsky Act of 2012.

A complex, baffling, and profoundly corrupt system is exposed to light by the man behind the Magnitsky Act--the single greatest deterrent to the threat and punishment for the fact of Russia's ongoing depredations in the world. American-born Browder recounts how he became the biggest capitalist in post-Soviet Russia, how the Russian government worked to destroy him, and how the torture and death of his honest Russian lawyer led to a global movement to prevent Putin's regime from enjoying the fruits of its criminal enterprises.

Why has Vladimir Putin called out one man, author Bill Browder, by name? This astonishing and moving story traces how Browder went from billionaire investor in an emerging Russian economy to human rights activist and major thorn in Putin's side. Whoever reads this book is in some small way joining hands in a protective screen around the author.

I think everyone should read it.
… (more)
LibraryThing member jmoncton
Recently, the news is filled with theories about Trump, Russia, and an obscure law called the Magnitsky Act. If you're curious about this law and how it relates to US relations with Russia, then Read. This. Book! It's well-written and has a fast plot, and immensely readable for non-fiction. This also makes a great book for a book club discussion - definitely recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member mountie9
Fascinating memoir that reals like an international spy thriller. The last chapter is worth the price of the book. You really feel the authors devastation about what happened, yet you can see how it changed him into a better man, willing to fight injustice. Appalled at the mass corruption throughout all levels of government and law enforcement in Russia (yes it happens in every country, I am not that naive) but wow, not sure to this extent. (ok maybe I am a little naive) Highly recommend… (more)
LibraryThing member Stbalbach
I loved Red Notice. Browder knows how to tell a story, and he has an amazing story to tell. I gained a deeper understanding of Russia's criminal operations that go straight to Putin. Also how investment bankers operate. Some of the best parts are in the early chapters when Browder discovers investing in Russia. There is a great lesson here, if you don't know something go knock on doors and ask, people will often freely talk. This book has changed my perspective on Russia and global investing. It's powerful, entertaining and ultimately humanitarian.… (more)
LibraryThing member rivkat
Would-be master of the universe goes to Russia, makes millions of dollars investing for clients in part by exposing corruption in Russian businesses, then gets too close to Putin’s interests. When he’s driven out of Russia, he manages to save his clients’ money, but his associates in Russia are threatened. As he struggles to figure out what happened to his stolen companies, one of his associates is killed, and he becomes a human rights activist in his search for justice. It’s got a bit of numbing detail; Browder’s not a prose stylist. But his story of corruption and looting is powerful and distressing—this is what it means that Putin is in power.… (more)
LibraryThing member JulieW121
One can't make this stuff of the reasons I LOVE reading and learning about Russia!!
LibraryThing member wlshirer
I listened to the audiobook version, and it was excellent. The narration and story was superb. It’s non-fiction, was informative and a bit of a thriller. This guy Browder goes to Russia as an investment guru, makes lots of money, eventually pisses off the oligarchs, and that is when the story gets interesting. Eventually, all of this ends in the passage of the Magnitsky act, which froze assets and prevents entrance of certain Russians into the USA. Magnitsky was an associate of Browder’s who was able to uncover a massive tax fraud perpetrated by these Russians. Magnitsky was tortured and eventually killed. The story goes all the way up to Putin. It provides a great insight into how the Russian government is a government not of laws, but of men, and corrupt men at that.It’s non-fiction, was informative and a bit of a thriller. This guy Browder goes to Russia as an investment guru, makes lots of money, eventually pisses off the oligarchs, and that is when the story gets interesting. Eventually, all of this ends in the passage of the Magnitsky act, which froze assets and prevents entrance of certain Russians into the USA. Magnitsky was an associate of Browder’s who was able to uncover a massive tax fraud perpetrated by these Russians. Magnitsky was tortured and eventually killed. The story goes all the way up to Putin. It provides a great insight into how the Russian government is a government not of laws, but of men, and corrupt men at that.… (more)
LibraryThing member dreskco
Interesting with enough details
LibraryThing member fionaanne
The story's fascinating but the writing leaves something to be desired. I'd suggest seeing the movie instead but there isn't one. (Side note: There's a documentary called Justice for Sergei about the man who was murdered so if you're short on time, that might be the way to go.)
LibraryThing member geza.tatrallyay
An excellent true account of the author's ups and downs as an investor in Putin's Russia. Along the way, he encounters brazen acts of embezzlement, theft and even murder by this lawless kleptocracy, losing his friend and lawyer Sergei Magnitsky to the agents of the 'rogue' state. A well-written gripping account; I could not put it down!… (more)
LibraryThing member lauralkeet
I was skeptical when this book was chosen for my book group. Subtitled, “A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice,” this is not my usual genre. So I was surprised when I found myself caught up in a fast-paced thriller that was hard to put down. Browder left Wall Street for Russia just after the fall of the Soviet Union. He was young, brash, savvy, and in the right place at the right time, taking advantage of Russian economic conditions to create an enormously successful hedge fund. But after exposing Russian corruption, Browder found himself on the wrong side of the government, up to and including Vladimir Putin. As the situation escalated, a member of Browder’s team was arrested and ultimately murdered. Shaken to the core, Browder redirected his personal energy towards relentless pursuit of justice.

The workings of Putin’s regime are legendary and yet also masked by confusing intrigue. Red Notice makes it clear that what occasionally appears in the news is not just the stuff of legend, but something very real. And while Browder doesn’t seem like the kind of guy I’d like to hang out with in real life (too much raw ambition), I couldn’t help but admire the ways he used his power and reputation to investigate the Russian government, gain access to US and UK government decision-makers, and work the diplomatic and legal systems to achieve his goals. But at the same time, he lives in a constant state of danger and takes countermeasures to ensure his own security, including publishing this book. As he wrote, “If I’m killed, you will know who did it.” While that statement took my breath away, it also gave me a new respect for those who risk their lives to fight wrongdoing.
… (more)
LibraryThing member LisCarey
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.
… (more)
LibraryThing member nmele
A friend gave me this book, a true story that is something of a thriller, something of a look inside Putin's Russia, and something of a conversion story, all set in contemporary Russia with side efforts in Washington. Although human rights advocates win some significant victories, overall one gets the sense that the dismal system described continues to operate to the benefit of a very small number of Russians, chiefly Vladimir Putin.… (more)
LibraryThing member dougcornelius
There is a great story in here. Clearly, Mr. Browder has encountered the financial highs and corruption lows of Russia as the country emerged from communism to the capitalist dream of privatization and dropped into the abyss of a totalitarian oligarchy.

As gifted as Mr. Browser is as a humanitarian and financier, it's nearly impossible to write an enjoyable autobiography. It's too personal and too biased. I kept imagining how Michael Lewis or Bethany McLean would have turned the story into a great book.… (more)


Original language



Page: 0.2413 seconds