At one time, becoming a member of ALM-Consulting (now called ALM-Feldmans) was a virtual guarantee for future entry into the ranks of Russia’s elite. Partnerships forged through the Moscow-based law firm have resulted in long-lasting alliances that have become entrenched in the Putin power structure. Russia’s outgoing first Vice-Prime Minister, Igor Shuvalov, sits at the centre of the complex web of connections built around ALM. However, in the wake of the Yukos scandal, his association with ALM has proven to be more of a liability than an asset.

Impact

  • Elite networks tied to a specific business enterprise or academic institution are commonplace in the former USSR. Prominent examples are the notorious Ozero dacha cooperative and the Republican School of Physics and Mathematics, located in Kazakhstan. Membership in such a network often provides the key to wealth and power, but it does not come without its risks, as the case of ALM demonstrates.
  • ALM was a key player in the frenzy of privatisations that occurred in Russia in the 1990s. The privatisations were often conducted through insider dealings, a practice that ALM employees propagated beyond their career with the law firm.
  • The recent increase of public scrutiny into elite networks has had uncomfortable consequences for the likes of Igor Shuvalov. While their power status is not in any real jeopardy, affected elites may be driven to conceal their sources of wealth more craftily or even distance themselves from vulnerable partners.