Ep783: William Browder – Don’t Go to Russia

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Quick take

BIO: William Browder is the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, Head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign, and author of Red Notice and Freezing Order.

STORY: Bill moved to Moscow at the age of 31 and was the only Westerner there with any Wall Street skills. That led him to become the largest foreign investor in the country. His decision to go to Russia was the worst investment of his life. Although Bill made a fortune for his clients and a smaller portion for himself, he wishes he never moved to Russia because a lot of people have died, and a lot of lives have been ruined.

LEARNING: Don’t go to Russia.


“My friend Vladimir is the second most important political prisoner in Russia, and I’m desperately trying to get them out. Hopefully, I’ll succeed.”

William Browder


Guest profile

William Browder is the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, Head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign, and author of Red Notice and Freezing Order. 

Bill was once Russia’s largest foreign portfolio investor until being declared “a threat to national security” in 2005 for exposing corruption in Russian state-owned companies.

In 2008, Mr. Browder’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, uncovered a massive fraud committed by Russian government officials stealing US$230 million of state taxes and was subsequently arrested, imprisoned without trial, and systematically tortured.

Sergei Magnitsky died in prison on November 16, 2009. Ever since, Bill Browder has led the Global Magnitsky Campaign for governments around the world to impose targeted visa bans and asset freezes on human rights abusers and highly corrupt officials, introducing the passage of the Sergei Magnitsky Accountability Act in 2012, & the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act 2016. Which has since been adopted by 11 countries, including the USA, UK, Canada, and New Zealand.

Worst investment ever

During his teenage rebellion, Bill faced a unique challenge, how to rebel from a family of communists. Undeterred, he hatched a daring plan to don a suit and tie and embrace capitalism. His graduation from Stanford Business School in 1989 coincided with the fall of the Berlin Wall, a moment that sparked a profound realization. With his grandfather’s communist legacy and the Berlin Wall’s collapse, Bill set his sights on an audacious goal to become the leading capitalist in Eastern Europe.

Bill aimed to become the largest investor in that part of the world. He eventually achieved that goal at the very young age of 25. Bill discovered the Russian privatization program, which basically gave everything away for free.

Bill moved to Moscow at the age of 31 in 1986, and he was the only Westerner there with any Wall Street skills. That led him to become the largest foreign investor in the country.

While initially lucrative, Bill’s decision to move to Russia proved to be a double-edged sword. He made a fortune for his clients and a smaller portion for himself, but the cost was high. Lives were lost, and many were left in ruins. Bill reflects on this, considering it the worst investment of his life.

Lessons learned

  • There are two choices for people who want to rebuild Russia: You can either go back and become part of the criminal enterprise or don’t go back. If you go back and try to fix it, you’ll become an enemy of the regime and go to jail. So, you can either become imprisoned or become a criminal. Better avoid the whole thing.

Andrew’s takeaways

  • Most people go along with whatever’s happening without even questioning it, and the ones who question it leave it and keep going.

No.1 goal for the next 12 months

Bill’s number one goal for the next 12 months is to get his friend Vladimir Kara Mirza out of prison before he dies.

Parting words


“Don’t go to Russia.”

William Browder


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:02
Hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to keep you winning in our community. We know that to win in investing, you must take risk, but to win big, you've got to reduce it. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm on a mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives. Fellow risk takers, this is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz, from a Stotz Academy, and I'm here with featured guests, William Browder. William, are you ready to join the mission?

William Browder 00:32
I think that I may be the highlight of your entire show of the worst, the highest risk, worst investment ever. So yeah, I think let's do it. Yeah,

Andrew Stotz 00:45
I'm looking forward to, you know, hearing a little bit about you. So basically, I'll just introduce you to the audience. Bill is CEO of hermitage Capital Management, head of the global Magnitsky justice campaign and author of read notice and freezing order. And ladies and gentlemen, these books are available on Amazon. I'll have them in the show notes, but they have incredible ratings. So you're also a very excellent author and storyteller. So I look forward to having you on the show. Now, let me ask you, what's the unique value that you are bringing to this wonderful world?

William Browder 01:24
Well, that's kind of a difficult question. I think we can either be your listeners, and viewers can decide whether I've been valuable or not. But basically, what I spend my life doing now is trying to get bad guys. assets frozen around the world, have their travel banned. I don't do it for money. I do it for the good of the world. And it was my mission has been driven by the murder of a young man who worked for me named Sergei Magnitsky. He was my lawyer in Russia. I was the largest foreign investor in Russia. Sergey worked for me to uncover a vast government corruption scheme. He reported it, he exposed it and retaliation. He was arrested, tortured for 358 days, and killed in Russian police custody on November 16 2009, leaving a wife and two children at the age of 37. And so since then, I put aside my life as a fund manager, and I've been a full time justice warrior, going out and trying to make sure that the people who killed him face justice and and this has resulted in a piece of legislation called the Magnitsky Act, Magnitsky Act named after Sergei Magnitsky. My lawyer who was killed, was passed in the United States at the end of 2012. It was passed in Canada in 2017, the United Kingdom and 2018 eu 2020 Australia 2021. There's no 35 countries with Magnitsky Act, which freezes the assets and bans the visas of human rights violators kleptocrats. Not just in Russia, but across the world. This is the been the basis for all sorts of pain and suffering by a lot of bad guys and a lot of different places. The Chinese generals involved in the concentration camps of Uyghurs are on the Magnitsky List, the Iranian security officials who are involved in killing peaceful demonstrators. But most importantly, for me, anyways, the people who killed Sergei Magnitsky are on the list. And this has now become a major, major tool for all victims around the world to get some justice.

Andrew Stotz 03:48
So what do you do next? I mean, you've been on quite a crusade for, you know, a righteous crusade. And you've accomplished a lot, you know, as you've just described, but what's next?

William Browder 04:02
Well, the problem is that the problem is not over in Russia, the my micro tragedy, the murder of one man who was close to me, who, who worked for me, has now been sort of broadened out a million times in terms of the war in Ukraine, the repression in Russia. And so I've got sort of two big goals right now. One is that a number of people who have helped me get the Magnitsky Act passed Russians are either dead, or some of them are in jail. And one in particular, a guy named Vladimir Cara Mirza who young man, I should say, not so young anymore. He's a middle aged man but he is about 15 years younger than me, who helped me in testifying in front of various Parliament's and he's Russian, also British citizen, and he was went back to mosque after the war started, and he was arrested, and he spent 25 years in prison. So one of my main priorities is to try to figure out a way to get him out of prison, which is not something I've ever done before. And then the second thing I'm working on, which is much more broad in terms of its impact, is that after the war started, after Russia, actually, Putin invaded Ukraine, Western central banks froze somewhere between 303 100 $50 billion of Russian Central Bank reserves. And Russia has since closed probably between 500 billion and a trillion dollars of damage to Ukraine. And so one of the other big projects I'm working on, is to try to get that money confiscated from Russia, and given to Ukraine for their defense and reconstruction. So between these two things, I'm pretty much don't have any time left for anything else.

Andrew Stotz 05:56
It's, I mean, it's incredible, because, you know, most people are on a career track, and you're on a mission track. So it's, it's, it's, and it's all, you know, it's all because you went, you went and took advantage, or it took an opportunity that you saw, and, you know, when when Russia was opening up, and did what you thought was, you know, some great stuff, and then things took a bad turn. And next thing, you know, your life has completely changed. And look at you on a mission, you know, probably, I guess, for the rest of your life. Yeah,

William Browder 06:34
well, I was just celebrating my 60th birthday, here in London, and a bunch of friends from all over different phases of my life, all flew in for big party weekend, including my friends from Stanford Business School, where I was 30, I graduated at 935 years ago. And it was really interesting. And we had our little sort of breakout dinner before the birthday party. And one of my closest friends from that time, sort of announced to the group if you know, if you if you had looked at all of our classmates, lined them all up and said, you know, who was least likely to be a human rights activist who was most capitalistic, most, you know, single minded, focused on bottom line, they would have pointed towards me back then. And so it's pretty unexpected that I ended up in this strange pivot. But it's a very satisfying pivot, I should say, it's something that sounds like, in any way unhappy about it, I think that I'm probably happier now than I've ever been, as a money making man. And which isn't to any way diminish the profession of making money. We, it's but but fighting for justice has been infinitely more satisfying and rewarding than fighting for money. You need to fight for money, you need to make money, you need to have money. And if I couldn't, if I didn't have money, I wouldn't be able to fight for justice. But you know, people don't applaud you for making money, but people do if you do good.

Andrew Stotz 08:23
Is there anybody close to you that has asked you to stop and say do something else, or like I have a friend of mine that's been in, in and in a battle. And we see it, it really, it's, it's a lot, it takes a lot out of him. The battle is for something meaning very meaningful for him in his life. And so I can see that there's no way he's ever going to give that up. But there's times that I talked to him and just say, Ah, I wish that you didn't have to be in this battle.

William Browder 08:59
Well, in my case, there was pretty much everybody, all smart people said, after Sergei Magnitsky was killed, you know, you should give some money to his family, you know, put it in your past and move on. And I've seen this happen with other employers and other people who have had people killed. But for me the idea and this was a particularly evil thing that happened to him, he and he was killed because he worked for me, he wouldn't have been killed if he hadn't worked for me and I and, and for me, the responsibility of his death sits very heavily on my shoulders, but in all these people saying to me, you know, I should just move on. That was I would have poisoned me from the inside if I had, and, and so I didn't, and I won't and, and, you know, he put up a brave fight in a much more perilous situation in their custody. And it seems to me that I owe it to him in a much less parallel situation I'm not sitting in Russia in custody of the criminal regime there. It seems to me that this is what I have to do. It's my moral imperative that I do this. And so it doesn't really matter who says what to me. And I had a lot of clients say, What are you doing when all this was going on? And, you know, it's this again, money is money, you know, you can lose money, you can make money, but human life is something far more precious and far more important.

Andrew Stotz 10:30
Well, it's a great, you know, it's great for all of us, you know, who are, you know, doing our thing. And occasionally, we stumble upon a mission. And sometimes the mission is bringing joy and pleasure to the world. And sometimes, it's about bringing justice to the world. And I think, you know, it's clear that you, you're, you know, this is the right thing for you to do. And I admire you for that. So it doesn't come without risk. Well, now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one goes into their worst investment, thinking it will be tell us about the circumstances leading up to it, and then tell us your story.

William Browder 11:11
Well, I, so I come from a unusual family background. I was born in Princeton, New Jersey. I was brought up in Chicago. But my family was a very American family, but it was very unique American family. My grandfather, on my father's side, was a labor union organizer from Wichita, Kansas, and he was so good at organizing the union that he was spotted by the IRS back in the 1920s. He was spotted by the Soviets. And they said, if you like labor unionism, you're going to love communism, why don't you come and check it out. And so in 1927, he moved to Moscow, he met my grandmother there. They had three sons, my father and two brothers, my father was born in Moscow. And then five years later, they returned, the family returned to America to Yonkers, New York, and my grandfather became the General Secretary of the American Communist Party, the head of the American Communist Party. He ran for president against Roosevelt in 1936. In 1940, he was imprisoned by Roosevelt in 41, pardon in 42. He was then expelled from the Communist Party in 1945, for being too much of a capitalist. And then he was persecuted viciously during the McCarthy era for being communist. So this is my family legacy. I was born in 1964, I'm 60 years old. When I was going through my teenage rebellion, I was trying to figure out how to rebel from a family of communists. And I came up with this great idea, which is put on a suit and tie and become a capitalist. So became a capitalist, I went to Stanford Business School. And I graduated in 1989, which was the year the Berlin Wall came down. And I had this great epiphany, which is that if, if my grandfather was big as communist in America, and the Berlin Wall has just come down, I'm going to try to become the biggest capitalist in Eastern Europe. And that's what I set out to do. And not

Andrew Stotz 13:11
coming to stop you right there just to ask a question, you know, because I was also kind of on my path around the world. But I didn't have these kinds of ambitions. Where did that come from? That you had this such a strong and big idea of what you could accomplish in Eastern Europe?

William Browder 13:27
Well, I had no idea that I could accomplish it, that was just my goal to try to try to do it. And what were the great thing about Eastern Europe at the time, and this was one of the huge attractions was that because it was communist? Nobody, it wasn't like, there was a bunch of 60 year old guys, with 40 years of experience ahead of me, you know, pushing me down into the lower ranks of, of, you know, hierarchy. When I showed up there, nobody had any more experience than I did, because everybody was starting from scratch. And so there's this expression in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. And so I showed up with the goal of becoming the largest investor in that part of the world. And I eventually achieved that goal at a very young age. You know, when I was 25, when I got to London, and I got involved in Eastern Europe, and I was, I worked at Salomon Brothers, in my late 20s. And I discovered the Russian privatization program where they're basically giving everything away for free. And I moved to Moscow at the age of 31 in 1986, and and, and it turned out that I was the only you effectively the only Westerner out there who had any Wall Street skills living on the ground, and that led to becoming the largest largest foreign investor in the country. And, but to answer your sort of, initial question, And the, you know, the worst trade I ever made. People always asked me, what would I do differently. And I did a lot of different things, a lot of very provocative things. I expose corruption. I was a shareholder activist, she sued the government, I did all sorts of stuff. But the only thing that I would do differently, and the main thing that led to tragedy of unspeakable proportions, is the decision to go to Russia in the first place. So that was the trade that I would do differently. I had the word that was the worst trait of my life, because although I made a fortune for my clients, and a smaller portion for myself, if I could do it all over again, I would never have done it. Because a lot of people have died, a lot of lives have been ruined. And I would trade that in a second. Let's try. Let's

Andrew Stotz 15:55
explore that for a second. I came to Thailand in 1992. And, you know, it was a pretty peaceful existence here. And I was in the stock market and you know, head of research and doing all that and, and then I went to China and taught some courses at University for executive MBA in 2013. And students said, Why didn't you come to China in 1992? Why did you go to Thailand? And I thought to myself, they said, you'd be rich by now. And I thought to myself, or in jail. Yeah. And maybe I was maybe I just wasn't, I was willing to take enough risk to go to Thailand. But maybe I wasn't not taking enough risk, willing to take enough risk to go to China as an example. But what is it that got in your head thinking about, let's say, a young person that's listening right now, that's got it in their head to do something that maybe they should think twice about?

William Browder 16:50
Well, so when I saw when I What attracted me to become an investor in Russia, I was working at Salomon Brothers, which doesn't exist anymore, but you know, part of Citi Group but sort of a famous investment bank back in the day, and I they sent me out to Murmansk, Russia in 1992, to advise the CEO of the Murmansk trawler fleet, a fishing fleet, on their privatisation and Murmansk is located 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, it's in the middle of nowhere, I flew up there, and the head of the fishing fleet took me to their one of their ships at the dock. And it was just enormous vessel, hundreds of feet long on multi stories, and I very impressive I said, How much is one of these things cost? He said $20 million? Knew? How many do you have in your fleet 100. So how 20 million times 100 is 2 billion. And he had hired me to advise them on whether or not to exercise the management's legitimate right under the privatization program of Russia to buy 51%. And so I said, at what price is the government selling you 51%. And he said two and a half million dollars. And so everything, it turns out, there wasn't just the Murmansk troller fleet is everything in Russia was treating it like a 99.7% discount to the comparable value of these assets in the West. And it was unbelievable. I mean, it was just in my logic was, and here's where it's interesting. So I said to my clients, when I moved out there to set up a fund, I said to my clients, you know, I don't know what's going to happen. But, you know, if this stuff, let's say, if this stuff is trading at a 99.7% discount, and things just get slightly better. You know, maybe it's trades at like a 95% discount, in which case you've made like, you know, 20 times your money. And if it doesn't, then you lose your money. And so I said, let's say it's 5050, you know, 20 times your money 50% chance, lose your money. 50% chance, if you do the expected value, the expected value of that trade is 10 times your money. And, and so I went in with a very logical, you know, sort of business school decision tree analysis, which looked unbelievably good, like who wouldn't do that trade? The expected value is 10 times your money. What I didn't think about was the non financial calculations. I was completely focused on the financial calculations. I didn't focus on people being arrested, tortured and killed. I mean, since this whole thing has happened. I've been under death threats from the Russian government kidnapping threats. They've issued eight Interpol arrest warrants for me. extradition requests lawsuits. I was arrested in Madrid Spain as rested in Geneva. You know, I can't travel to I would never travel to Thailand, for example, because they would be over the Russia And, and I can't travel to probably, like 98% of the countries in the world, there's like 10 places I can I can travel to. And so, you know, I guess the moral of my story is that you don't want to just do, you know, financial calculations when you look at this stuff. And, and, you know what I've what I mean, now, you know, I'm here in the UK, you know, reasonably safe. I mean, I mean, there's certainly still threats against me, but, you know, it's a reasonably safe country. But I won't now that I'm still an investor, from my own capital, I don't, I gave up managing other people's money, but I still manage my own. And even though I made all my money in emerging markets, I'll never invest another penny in emerging markets, because what I've discovered is that rule of law, and property rights are paramount, if you don't have them. It's all everything else is just effectively gambling, because you have no idea what's going to happen. It's just like, totally spin of the dice or spin spin of the wheel roll of the dice kind of thing. And,

Andrew Stotz 21:05
you know, what you talked about, about the, the, the billion dollar fleet being sold, you know, being able to buy it, you know, you know, a tiny price, let's call that and kind of the original sin. And you didn't get involved in that. So you could kind of ethically say, Well, I didn't do that ripping off the government. But do you? Did you have any thoughts? Or have you had any thoughts about? Then kind of piggybacking on that and saying, well, it already happened. Now, it's an asset out in the market? And if I buy it, and it goes up, I'm gonna make money. Was there ever any thought about the ethics of that? Or is that? Is that not an issue in your mind? I'm not saying I know the answer to that question. I'm just, you know,

William Browder 21:52
so as you as you might imagine, there's lots of people who have criticized me over the years for different things that I've done. I'm a controversial person. And one of the criticisms from people who don't, who are not capitalist for the most part is, you know, how could you have taken How could you have involved yourself in that privatization program? And? And the answer is I didn't I all I did was was bought shares, on the RTS, the Russian trading system, in the same way, as you'd buy shares on NASDAQ, or the New York Stock Exchange, I never rip anybody off or bought anything from anybody I bought, I bought the stocks on the on an exchange. And so and those people criticize me and say, Well, you shouldn't have participated. Well, I mean, so the same might be said, for anyone who bought Apple shares? Why, why would you, you know, if your Apple shares went up 1000 times, you know, somebody sold them to you, they could have benefited, that you been benefited. So, I mean, it doesn't make any sense to me that you can't buy shares, if somehow unethical or, or bad to buy shares on a stock market, but the unethical stuff, and there's a hell of a lot of it. Where are the people who are, you know, bribing government officials to have auctions rigged, so they could buy things from the government at prices, you know, where people were excluded, and there was no competition, or people who were involved in schemes to steal money from the government, but I was doing just the opposite. I was buying shares of companies. And then I was screaming bloody murder, when I discovered corruption in those companies. And most of the time, you know, say I bought 1%, of a big Russian company in which the state was a shareholder, and lots of other people owned it, I was the one screaming bloody murder, the share price was going up because I was screaming bloody murder, and the state and the other shareholders were big beneficiaries.

Andrew Stotz 23:45
So in a sense, you purchase the shares in, you know, let's say, in a market, and when you purchased it in the market, you tried to be a responsible shareholder by saying, if I see corruption, I'm gonna call it out. And of course, you know, I guess that's where I was thinking about the idea of, you know, when something happens when the origination of something happens through a bad person, a bad actor, a corrupt act? I guess I've always kind of felt like, maybe I should stay away from that, because it could go wrong. But you could argue a look you listed on the stock market, you know, it's just another stock and you don't necessarily know all the details of what happened. But, you know, it's an interesting one, I think, for a young person to think about about, you know, what, what is worth getting involved in what is not and I think what you've talked about is the idea of, you know, not just thinking obviously, only about the monetary gain, there's there's other issues related to it, but I'm just thinking about Thailand, and kind of my experience here and what you've just described, is there more that you would add to them?

William Browder 24:56
Well, so for me, it wasn't it was all over incremental. So when I first got there, I was just looking at the numbers and saying, Wow, this is these, these, these things are really cheap. And I have like, special. You know, because I'm on the ground, I can go ask questions and visit companies and get more information than people in New York or London, who were trying to invest. So I had a huge information advantage. And then I would buy shares of these companies. And I, and then, and my performance was really good. And so people added money to my fun, and I got bigger and bigger and bigger, I became the largest shareholder in the country. And then I discovered, you know, like, a huge scam was being perpetrated right under my nose. And so I kind of had a responsibility, I couldn't just, and I couldn't just do nothing, and, and a lot of people who also were shareholders just wanted to do nothing. They just like, you know, this is not my business, you know, I'm, and I thought, you know, this is wrong, you know, these guys can't just steal this money from us and steal money from my clients and not, you know, I've got a fiduciary responsibility to do something about it. Everyone else out there was just like, you know, looking the other way and not wanting to get involved. And so and it was really interesting when I got I was eventually expelled from the country for being such a, you know, doing all this anti corruption work and, and all of my stock market. compatriots were all saying, yeah, he deserved it. He didn't know how to play by the rules, here are the rules, are you just go along with the corruption? Well, you know, you know that that's, I don't agree with that.

Andrew Stotz 26:26
Yeah. And in fact, if I think about the lesson that I take from it, it's the idea that most people probably do you know, most people do go along with whatever, whatever's happening. And they don't they may they made, some may not even question it. But the ones that question it, just leave it and keep going on. And so that, to me, is one of the lessons that I take from it, you know, how would you summarize the lessons that you learned?

William Browder 26:54
Well, it's very interesting. So you know, that they were after I was expelled, and all this terrible stuff happened, and Sergei Magnitsky was murdered. And, and, you know, a lot of people were questioning whether they should be investors in Russia, you know, big institutions. And they would go to the some of the remaining people there. And there was one guy out there, who ran the largest, I was largest public equity investor, and he was the largest private equity investor. And they would go to him and say, Well, you know, why should we give you any more money? Look, what they did to Bill Browder, and all this terrible stuff has happened. He said, No, no, no, he, you know, he didn't know how to play by the rules. He was, you know, agitating, he was complaining publicly humiliating the government, we don't ever do that. And we've hired people from the KGB and, and put them on the boards of our companies were fully, you know, fully, like merged with all the power structures, everything's gonna be fine. And for a while, for a good while, for a good decade after I was kicked out, everything was fine. Maybe not quite a decade. Now. Yeah, the decade and then. And then I can't remember the year of I think it was like a couple like 2018, or something like that. One day, it was announced that he, and every single one of his partners was arrested. And, and, and none of them died in jail, because they were like, had a better relationship with the government than we did. But they were arrested. And it's been a good time in jail. And, and, and, of course, somebody wanted to go after their assets. And so the moral of the story is that, you know, that the bad guys, of course, stole money from their enemies first, and did all this, you know, extortion, Shakedown, you know, hostage taking, but when they ran out of enemies, and they started going after their friends, it's like that famous story about the scorpion and the frog. And, you know, and the scorpion says, I need to get the other side and the frog said, but you know, can I jump on your back? And the frog said, no, no, that that's, you know, if you do, then you'll sting me. And he said, that would be insane. You know, interesting, you would both go down. And so the frog said, Okay, and so he put the scorpion jumps on the back of the frog, and they sort of swimming out in the middle of water. And sure enough, the scorpion like, you know, takes his, you know, Stinger and stings, stings the frog. And the frog said, I understand why you do that. And the scorpion said, sorry, it's just in my nature, and that's how these places are. It's just and so, I have a lot of young people come to me and say, you know, you know, I'm, I'm from, you know, wherever, Russia, Uzbekistan, and whatever. You know, I'd like to go back to my home country and, and try to fix it. And my advice is, you know, them, there's only two, there's really two choices for you. You can either go back and become a member, you know, a part of the criminal enterprise, or don't go back. Because if you go back and try to fix it, you'll become an enemy of the regime and you'll go to jail. So, you can either become you know, imprisoned or you can become a Criminal better just avoid the whole thing. You know,

Andrew Stotz 30:03
it's interesting when I think about Thailand back in 92, and I arrived here, you know, there was plenty of corruption, plenty of stuff going on. And there still is, obviously. But what I would say is from a corporate governance perspective, they really, you know, many of the families saw the benefit of behaving themselves. The SEC tried to enforce, you know, regulations on people and good behavior. I was involved with CFA society here. And we worked a lot with the CFA with the SEC to try to train people in ethics and corporate governance and all that. And I would say there's some really good corporate governance companies in Thailand in I won't speak for other countries around Asia, but I know that there's plenty. What did Russia why couldn't Russia do that? What is the underlying thing that just makes it so contagious? And it's not is not going to happen or didn't happen?

William Browder 30:58
Well, it's interesting you say that, so I after I, after I was expelled from Russia, for a brief period of time, I had a, I took my fund, I returned all the Russian money, and I set up an emerging markets fund, and I traveled the world. And I remember going to like Egypt, in Brazil, in telling the story of what had happened to us in Russia with all the crazy corruption and terrible stuff. And, the stories that I told people were shocked. And this is Egypt and Brazil, we're, you know, these are not, not these are, these are, these are countries with definite corruption. And so things were off this scales in Russia and the former Soviet Union. And why is it more so I think that they that they just the institutions just never developed in those places. It was sort of one of these things where, you know, when you have a dictator, a totalitarian dictatorship, and I would imagine that China is not too dissimilar to Russia, it's a little, probably a little bit, you know, they they put on a better show, but it's pretty much, you know, it's very, very rare for anyone, any Westerner, to be able to walk out of China hole after the whole experience. And I think but But Russia in particular, you know, there's this whole criminality, that's permeated all the way through the Soviet period. And there's a famous expression, if you're not stealing from the state, you're stealing from your family, that was the expression during the Soviet times. And so the whole thing became criminalized. And, and what's interesting is that, you know, you go to, I mean, there's not a single person in Russia, who works in the government, that's not there. To steal money. It's just the entire apparatus is just the entire all public service is to steal money from the lowest traffic cop, right for the President. And I don't think that's true. And in, in, in various other countries, and, and certainly, you know, you could have corruption, but corruption isn't the main purpose of government.

Andrew Stotz 32:56
Yeah. And I always, when I look at China, as compared to Thailand, I always, I, I explained to my Chinese friends that I never paid any bribe or had to be was put in a position like that. In Thailand, you know, like you could exist, you know, if you want to go play the game, and get involved in that stuff. I think a lot of foreigners sometimes do. But you know, my business partner, and I didn't feel like doing that. And so we've been left alone, which I think just isn't going to happen in a place like Russia, or isn't going to happen in a place like China. I just to wrap up, I'd love to talk just briefly about your books. And, you know, tell us about your, your, your writing, I mean, obviously, you You're damn good at it. And you're damn good at storytelling. And you've got stories to tell, of course, but I'm just curious, like, where did that come from? Are you always a writer? Or did that come out of just a force of nature that, you know, it just it needed to come out? Well,

William Browder 33:59
they say necessity is the mother of invention. And I had a story to tell that I needed to tell, which was about the murder of Sergei Magnitsky. The world needed to know that story. And I was very, very determined to tell it, and I wanted to make sure that as many people as possible, understood what the Russian government did. So that they, first of all, the large Russian government, you know, had to take some, you know, in one way or another would be forced to take responsibility. But the other thing is, is important for everyone to know that, you know, they just didn't avoid Russia. And, and so within this writing, I am not a national writer. I never I've never written anything more than a four page newsletter before. And it was painful. Beyond Belief. I would say that, you know, the most hardest thing I've ever done from a physical, you know, intellectual rigor processes to write a book. I mean, it's just so time consuming so much goes into it. And for me, it was really important that this book wasn't just a book that I wrote. But it was a book that people read. And so every page that I was writing, and this is I think, different. For me, it was different for me than it is from many other writers many of the writers just write. And I was just thinking every, every page, every paragraph, why should anyone want to read this paragraph? And why should they want to turn the page? Why, you know, I assume that most people wouldn't, because I'm that way, with most books, I have a hard time getting through most books. And so I didn't want anyone to like, you know, put my book down after 14 pages. And so I just kept on questioning myself and challenging myself, why does anyone care? Why should they care? Why should they turn the page? Why should they want to know what happens next. And I just kept on challenging myself. And every time I felt, and I was really hard on myself, every time I felt like they wouldn't I rewrite it and rewrite it and rewrite it until people would want to turn the page.

Andrew Stotz 35:55
I mean, I have being an analyst, I have a habit of putting rankings of books in an Excel spreadsheet, looking at the ranking for Google and Amazon, and then I create a composite score, to try to decide whether a book is you know, worth my time to go in. And I can say that a 4.7, out of five with 45,000 ratings on Amazon is top, you know, very top. Excellent. And, but more importantly, 4.4 out of five is exceedingly high on Goodreads with 93,000 ratings. So good reads is the one that's I think, much more critical. And that is, you know, an amazing job with read notice. And you know, you've done it, you know, with freezing water also. So congratulations on that. I know, I always I've written some books, but you know, they're short books, and they were painstaking. And someone said to me, Oh, you're, you're an author? And I said, no, actually. They said, You're a writer. I said, No, I'm just an author, right? I am not a writer. I don't like writing. I just did it. And it was painful. But I authored this book. And that's a little bit about, but clearly the work that you did on this, you know, has shone through, so congratulations on that. And for the listeners out there. It looks like free freezing order is got an audio book out there. So if you're interested in listening, I'll have the links in the show notes to that one. That looks pretty exciting.

William Browder 37:32
Right read note is also as an audio book.

Andrew Stotz 37:35
Okay, got it. Yep. So I'll have links to that in the show notes. And so last question, what is your number one goal for the next 12 months?

William Browder 37:47
Well, my number one goal is to get my friend Vladimir Kara Mirza out of prison. Before he dies. We saw what happened to Alexei Navalny, the leader of the opposition, he was murdered in police custody. My friend Vladimir is the second most important political prisoner in Russia. And I'm desperately trying to get them out. And hopefully we'll succeed.

Andrew Stotz 38:07
Well, I wish you very, you know, good luck with that. And I admire your desire to see justice. And for listeners out there. That's another incredible story of loss to keep all of us winning. And as I conclude, I just want to thank you for coming on the show. And on behalf of a Stotz Academy, I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. You have any parting words for the audience?

William Browder 38:42
Well, don't go to Russia.

Andrew Stotz 38:45
There it is. That's, that's well taken. And that's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow and protect our well fellow risk takers. Let's celebrate the day we added one more person to our mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives. And this was quite a story. This is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz saying. I'll see you on the upside.

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About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

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