Bill Browder

Founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management

Dr. Michael Carpenter

Senior Director at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement

Standing Up to Corruption: Exposing How Kleptocrats Undermine the Global Order

About the Topic

Kleptocracy - state-sanctioned corruption- erodes governance. It can manifest itself within a nation or by crossing borders from one country to another. Two examples: 

 Venezuela - Last month, a U.S. Treasury official blasted President Nicolás Maduro of running "a kleptocracy," stealing millions from state enterprises. In one example, he described the regime's practice of pulling from food boxes it distributes to the poor, swapping "more valuable or popular food products - such as dry milk - with lower value products. The higher value products are then sold on the black market . . . Maduro's inner circle kept the difference."  One transaction netted the regime $200 million. Recent surveys report nearly 80 percent of Venezuelans have trouble feeding themselves, 60 percent are suffering weight loss.

Russia - Beyond greed and the abuse of their citizens, kleptocracies impact geopolitics. In Russia,  “Kleptocracy puts enormous resources at the Russian government’s disposal, enabling Moscow to co-opt foreign business and political elites,” reported The Journal of Democracy in January. The National Endowment for Democracy calls it  “the weaponization of kleptocracy.” Are kleptocracies on the rise? And how does the United States confront - or enable - them? 

About the Speaker

Bill Browder is the founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management and was the largest foreign investor in Russia until 2005.  For the past decade, he has evaded the Putin regime's assassination efforts. In July,  during their Helsinki news conference, Putin asked President Trump to deliver Browder, a British citizen, for questioning.

Putin’s keen interest in Browder stems from the Magnitsky Act, legislation Congress enacted in 2012 allowing the U.S. to freeze assets of and ban visas for human-rights violators. Browder crusaded for the law after his Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died under brutal circumstances in a Moscow prison. Magnitsky's alleged crime: the discovery of a $230-million Russian government corruption scheme. Browder has since traced the money to Putin associates with accounts in over 20 countries.  In 2016, Congress expanded sanctions beyond Russia with the Global Magnitsky Act.  Other nations are enacting similar laws. Browder hopes to see "a tipping point"  in global accountability for officials and their associates engaging in corruption and human rights abuse.

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Dr. Michael Carpenter is Senior Director of the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania and Senior Fellow at The Atlantic Council.   From 2015 to 2017, Dr. Carpenter served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense with responsibility for Russia, Eurasia, the Balkans, and Conventional Arms Control.  Dr. Carpenter also served as a foreign policy advisor to Vice President Biden and as Director for Russia at the National Security Council. Prior to his White House appointments, Dr. Carpenter spent twelve years in the Foreign Service, including as Deputy Director of the Office of Russian Affairs.

Last year, Dr. Carpenter testified before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. Examining Russian influence operations, he warned: “Russia’s intelligence services and Kremlin-linked oligarchs have targeted Western political parties, businessmen, politicians, media organizations, and NGOs.” He urged better use of existing tools, including the Magnitsky Act with its “personal sanctions against corrupt individuals.