There’s an old saying out there that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The quote is attributed to nineteenth-century historian Lord Acton and over a hundred years later his words still ring true. Take for instance politicians, Wall Street brokers, and authoritative figures. More than a handful of them are corrupted over the years and some might even argue that a man like Bill Browder was corrupted by his extraordinary rise in the international world of finance, swift accumulation of enormous wealth, and the close relationships he held with powerful people. However, the details of Browder’s life show that Browder was a self-determined narcissist driven to become more than just a successful financier; he craved “global significance” and in an effort to accomplish what his ego demanded, he consciously chose to work with some of the wealthiest and disreputable characters in the financial world.
Browder was born to Felix and Eva Browder on April 23, 1964 in Chicago, Illinois. At the age of twelve he attended boarding school at Whiteman Mountain School in Steamboat Springs, Colorado whose base cost today runs about $46,000 a year. After Whiteman he attended the University of Colorado in Boulder and went on to complete a pre-MBA program at Bain & Company in Boston. According to his book, it was during his time at Bain that he came up with the notion to use his grandfather’s story as a means to get into a top rated business school,
“But then it dawned on me. My colleagues may all have had better resumes, but who else was the grandson of the leader of the Communist Party of the United States? No one else, that’s who…I applied to two schools, Harvard and Stanford, and told them my grandfather’s story…”
And yes, it appears that Browder has been using his grandfather’s story for like thirty years now. As for the top rated business school, Stanford ate his story up like a kid with a chocolate bar which probably led Browder to think it was a great idea to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps too,
”…I looked at other aspects of my grandfather’s life that I might emulate and came up with the idea of Eastern Europe. He had spent an important part of his life in the Soviet Bloc, and his experience there had catapulted him into global significance. If that’s where my grandfather had carved out his niche, then maybe I could too.”
Obviously the fact that Browder’s family including his grandfather, Earl Browder, “carved out” their niche in Eastern Europe as Soviet spies seemed to have escaped him. After graduating with his big boy business degree from Stanford, Browder took a job at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) where he got his first taste of Eastern European privatization programs by taking an assignment in Poland. He eventually left BCG and started working for Robert Maxwell and when I say Robert Maxwell I mean the Robert Maxwell who owned the Daily Mirror in London and god only knows how many other publications. He’s also the one who stole a shiz ton of money from his companies’ pension funds in order to keep his empire afloat but that’s another story.
If you’re still not sure who Robert Maxwell is maybe you’re familiar with his daughter, Ghislaine Maxwell. She’s the one who not only dated Jeffrey Epstein but allegedly recruited 15-year-old Virginia Roberts to work as Epstein’s “masseuse.” Roberts also claimed that “[Ghislaine] Maxwell pimped her out to Epstein’s wealthy pals, including Prince Andrew.” Ring any bells now? I thought it might.
In 1991, Robert Maxwell also sued Seymour Hersh for libel after Hersh wrote that Maxwell and Nicholas Davis, the foreign editor of the London Daily Mirror had “close ties to Mossad, the Israeli secret intelligence service, and that Davies had spied for Israel and illegally sold arms to Iran.” But for anyone who’s ever read Browder’s book this shouldn’t come as any surprise; Browder’s story is filled with ex-Mossad. But I digress. It was once reported that the “FBI feared that media mogul Robert Maxwell was a Soviet spy who tried to use his publishing empire to send intelligence behind the Iron Curtain” and then in 2006, the Independent reported that Maxwell was under investigation for war crimes. Apparently he had murdered an unarmed German civilian back in 1945, but Maxwell was killed, I mean, accidentally swan dived off the back of his yacht before the investigation was complete leaving Browder to scout for a new job. He eventually landed a new gig at Salomon Brothers because as he put it,
“In 1991, just as Maxwell had generated a huge scandal in Britain, Salomon Brothers had done the same in the United States. In the previous autumn, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) caught some top Salomon traders trying to manipulate the US Treasury bond market…many of the good employees had jumped ship…this left gaping holes at Salomon…”
Naturally Browder was a perfect fit for this kind of criminal outfit and soon he was on his way to terrorizing Russia.
After joining Salomon Brothers in 1992, Browder was hired by the Russian fishing operation Murmansk Trawler Fleet in an effort to help them during the privatization program. However, after Murmansk offered to pay Browder $50,000 in compensation for an assignment that reads in his book like it took all of but a day to do, he responded with what has to be the greediest thing to ever come out of his mouth,
“My heart sank. It’s hard to describe how small $50,000 is to an investment banker. Linda Evangelista, a supermodel from the 1980s and 1990s, once famously declared, ‘I don’t get out of bed for less than ten thousand dollars a day.’ For an investment banker, that number is more like $1 million.”
And people want to name their cat after this guy? Good lord. At any rate, Browder slummed it all the way to Russia to collect his paltry 50K and quickly realized that Russia was a goldmine waiting to be tapped. And for all the liberals out there reading this, please remember: Browder constantly complains that Putin is a thief, the oligarchs are thieves, and the Russian mafia is filled with thieves, but I can assure you he didn’t make millions off of the privatization program by helping little babushkas invest their vouchers. Far from it. If there’s anyone who likes to deny that they contributed to the economic rape of Russia during the 1990s, it’s this guy. From Red Notice,
“But as I went home that day I had that tingling, greedy tension in my gut, similar to when I saw my $2,000 Polish investment multiply by nearly ten times, or when I’d first unearthed the Russian voucher scheme.”
Did you catch that? A Russian voucher scheme. And here’s how that scheme worked: After the fall of the Soviet Union a privatization program was put in place by the Clinton Administration, Harvard University, USAID, George Soros, and a handful of Russian officials. Every Russian citizen was given a voucher that they could keep, invest, or sell but here’s the thing, Russian citizens didn’t understand how to use the voucher system or know that they had to take their voucher to (rigged) auctions in order to invest in newly privatized companies. According to Browder,
“The Russian people had no idea what to do with the vouchers when they received them for free from the state and, in most cases, were happy to trade them for $7 bottle vodka or a few slabs of pork.”
Browder on the other hand knew exactly what to do with them and that didn’t include educating the common folks so they didn’t starve to death. However, much to Browder’s chagrin, he initially had a hard time convincing Salomon to give him the investment money.
“No one wanted anything to do with me because I was that ‘crazy fuck who wouldn’t shut up about Russia.’ The other associates I used to hang out with stopped inviting me for lunch and after-work drinks.”
Salomon eventually caved and gave him $25 million to invest and to make a short story shorter, Browder started making a ton of money. More importantly, the meanies in the office started being nice to him. It seems by the end of 1993, Browder had become a made man in the international world of finance and in his book he brags about jet-setting around the world, living like a rock star, and George Soros courting him.
The party in Russia was just getting started.