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From Russia With(out) Love: Oligarchical Capitalism and Corruption

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Jon Hansen

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The story of William Felix Browder and Hermitage Capital Management’s experience in Russia is an interesting story. One in which the seemingly symmetrical alliance of opportunity and history converging in an emerging Western-style market promised to deliver prosperity to a nation in transition. So what happened? What was behind Browder's and Hermitage's dramatic shift from being the “largest foreign portfolio investor in Russia,” to what is “now the biggest enemy of the State of Russia.” This is an intriguing tale of “corrupt bureaucrats and their businessmen accomplices,” false accusations of an apparent “risk” to national security and the unlawful seizure of company assets in the hope of gaining access to $230 million. It is a story in which one might be inclined to see this as the persistent and pervasive remnants of a fatally flawed state. What is interesting is that the drama in Russia has little to do with the apparent failings of an ersatz democracy or even the establishment of a westernized monetary system. The real issue is one that is likely to both surprise and engage you! One in which Hardy contends, has little to do with the trappings of wealth and its voracious pursuit, and more to do with power. Turning our attention back to the Hermitage experience in Russia, the real question that needs to asked and answered is simply this . . . is the Bill Browder story an example of a flawed political state resurfacing in the guise of capitalistic aspirations? Or is it an example of the toxic mix of oligarchical capitalism and a country that is susceptible to an artificially created concentration of wealth and power? Joining me today to expand on the Hermitage story, as well as look at other areas of concentrated influence is author of "The Hidden Game" John Berling Hardy.

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