Long Live Russia’s Corporate Activists

navalny040110.jpgThe Associated Press has published a new profile of the crusading lawyer Alexander Navalny, who has had the courage and persistence to push forward in the name of corporate governance and transparency, asking tough but simple questions such as who owns Surgutneftegaz, what is the role of Gunvor in Gazprom’s foreign transactions, or what happened to $500 million Transneft says it gave to “charity.”  The AP article even quotes Bill Browder in support of Navalny, who says that he is “gratified to see that Alexei Navalny is carrying on with the anti-corruption work that we were so passionate about, which means the effort is still alive. (…) Navalny is doing an enormous service to Russia.”  After we’ve seen what has happened to Browder and Hermitage, we can only hope and pray for Navalny’s safety working in such a corrupt and opaque business environment.

It appears that Russia’s political leadership has not understood that the transparency movement ultimately seeks to lift Russia to a higher level of growth, inviting investment and trust, and building a stronger financial future for the country.  Just looking at the reactions of fear and loathing on behalf of state-owned companies to Navalny’s series of lawsuits (all of which have been tossed out by the courts), reveals a determined drive to protect and conceal rent-seeking behavior by executives and government officials.  If a shareholder lawsuit is eventually able to make its way forward in an international court, thanks to Navalny’s tireless persistence, then perhaps one day we’ll see this darkness shattered by a first beam of light.