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Russia’s hedge fund opposition

As president Vladimir Putin enters his third term, one of the main critics of the political and corruption risks in Russia is Bill Browder, chief executive of London hedge fund Hermitage Capital.

The US Senate’s backing this summer for the so-called Magnitsky Law is forcing more investors to listen to Browder’s ultra-critical view of the Russian state system. So what kind of change in Russia would Browder advocate? 

The law is an important precedent for US relations with other countries too; Browder is a rare example of a hedge fund manager turned human rights advocate. His grandfather was leader of the US communist party in the 1930s.

After lobbying by Browder, the US Senate foreign relations committee approved a law to invalidate the US visas and freeze the assets of 60 Russia citizens accused of human rights violations. Browder says these people were involved in the 2008 death in custody of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer investigating an alleged tax fraud involving supposedly forged Hermitage documents.

Within Russia, however, the Magnitsky Bill gives weight to Browder’s grim depictions of doing business under Putin. "Russia is not an investible country," says Browder in his office in London’s Mayfair.

Until he was unexpectedly refused entry to Russia on arrival in 2005, Hermitage was one of Russia’s biggest foreign portfolio investors. Browder was one of the Russian government’s greatest advocates.

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