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The Harvard Boys Do Russia | The Nation

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The Harvard Boys Do Russia

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H.I.I.D. helped create several more aid-funded institutions. One was the Federal Commission on Securities, a rough equivalent of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.). It too was established by presidential decree, and it was run by Chubais protégé Dmitry Vasiliev. The commission had very limited enforcement powers and funding, but U.S.A.I.D. supplied the cash through two Harvard-created institutions run by Hay, Vasiliev and other members of the Harvard-Chubais coterie.

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Janine R. Wedel
Janine R. Wedel is an anthropologist and associate research professor and research fellow at the Institute for European...

One of these was the Institute for Law-Based Economy, funded by both the World Bank and U.S.A.I.D. This institute, set up to help develop a legal and regulatory framework for markets, evolved to encompass drafting decrees for the Russian government; it got nearly $20 million from U.S.A.I.D. Last August, the Russian directors of I.L.B.E. were caught removing $500,000 worth of U.S. office equipment from the organization's Moscow office; the equipment was returned only after weeks of U.S. pressure. When auditors from U.S.A.I.D.'s inspector general's office sought records and documents regarding I.L.B.E. operations, the organization refused to turn them over.

The device of setting up private organizations backed by the power of the Yeltsin government and maintaining close ties to H.I.I.D. was a way of insuring deniability. Shleifer, Hay and other Harvard principals, all U.S. citizens, were "Russian" when convenient. Hay, for example, served alternately and sometimes simultaneously as aid contractor, manager of other contractors and representative of the Russian government. If Western donors were attacked for funding controversial privatization practices of the state, the donors could claim they were funding "private" organizations, even if these organizations were controlled or strongly influenced by key state officials. If the Chubais circle came under fire for misuse of funds, they could claim that Americans made the decisions. Foreign donors could insist that the Russians acted on their own.

Against the backdrop of Russia's Klondike capitalism, which they were helping create and Chubais and his team were supposedly regulating, the H.I.I.D. advisers exploited their intimate ties with Chubais and the government and were allegedly able to conduct business activities for their own enrichment. According to sources close to the U.S. government's investigation, Hay used his influence, as well as U.S.A.I.D.-financed resources, to help his girlfriend, Elizabeth Hebert, set up a mutual fund, Pallada Asset Management, in Russia. Pallada became the first mutual fund to be licensed by Vasiliev's Federal Commission on Securities. Vasiliev approved Pallada ahead of Credit Suisse First Boston and Pioneer First Voucher, much larger and more established financial institutions.

After Pallada was set up, Hebert, Hay, Shleifer and Vasiliev looked for ways to continue their activities as aid funds dwindled. Using I.L.B.E. resources and funding, they established a private consulting firm with taxpayer money. One of the firm's first clients was Shleifer's wife, Nancy Zimmerman, who operated a Boston-based hedge fund that traded heavily in Russian bonds. According to Russian registration documents, Zimmerman's company set up a Russian firm with Sergei Shishkin, the I.L.B.E. chief, as general director. Corporate documents on file in Moscow showed that the address and phone number of the company and the I.L.B.E. were the same.

Then there is the First Russian Specialized Depository, which holds the records and assets of mutual fund investors. This institution, funded by a World Bank loan, also worked to the benefit of Hay, Vasiliev, Hebert and another associate, Julia Zagachin. According to sources close to the U.S. government's investigation, Zagachin, an American married to a Russian, was selected to run the depository even though she lacked the required capital. Ostensibly, there was to be total separation between the depository and any mutual fund using its services. But the selection of Zagachin defied this tenet of open markets: Pallada and the depository were run by people with ties to each other through H.I.I.D. Thus the very people who were supposed to be the trustees of the system not only undercut the aid program's stated goal of building independent institutions but replicated the Soviet practice of skimming assets to benefit the nomenklatura.

Anne Williamson, a journalist who specializes in Soviet and Russian affairs, details these and other conflicts of interest between H.I.I.D.'s advisers and their supposed clients--the Russian people--in her forthcoming book, How America Built the New Russian Oligarchy. For example, in 1995, in Chubais-organized insider auctions of prime national properties, known as loans-for-shares, the Harvard Management Company (H.M.C.), which invests the university's endowment, and billionaire speculator George Soros were the only foreign entities allowed to participate. H.M.C. and Soros became significant shareholders in Novolipetsk, Russia's second-largest steel mill, and Sidanko Oil, whose reserves exceed those of Mobil. H.M.C. and Soros also invested in Russia's high-yielding, I.M.F.-subsidized domestic bond market.

Even more dubious, according to Williamson, was Soros's July 1997 purchase of 24 percent of Sviazinvest, the telecommunications giant, in partnership with Uneximbank's Vladimir Potanin. It was later learned that shortly before this purchase Soros had tided over Yeltsin's government with a backdoor loan of hundreds of millions of dollars while the government was awaiting proceeds of a Eurobond issue; the loan now appears to have been used by Uneximbank to purchase Norilsk Nickel in August 1997. According to Williamson, the U.S. assistance program in Russia was rife with such conflicts of interest involving H.I.I.D. advisers and their U.S.A.I.D.-funded Chubais allies, H.M.C. managers, favored Russian bankers, Soros and insider expatriates working in Russia's nascent markets.

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