A few years after the fall of the Berlin wall, Boris Yeltsin became president of an independent Russia. His administration pursued a policy of converting government owned enterprises into privately, yet publicly owned companies.
Russia issued “privatization vouchers” to citizens as ownership in these converted state-owned businesses. Typical Russians, however, had no experience or knowledge of what these vouchers meant. What does a Russian peasant, barely able to subsist, waiting in hours long lines for bread and clothing, do with vouchers for ownership in a company?
Well, they sold them. An incredibly large, incredibly corrupt market for state-owned company privatization vouchers was launched. This was a massive opportunity for the men who eventually became Russia’s Oligarchs. It was also an huge opening for an enterprising American investor, Bill Browder.
What ensued is a little like how you would imagine. Controversy, huge wealth creation, corruption, and eventually murder result. Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder is a wonderful, quick summer read.
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