A recent article in Bloomberg details how an obscure brokerage has blossomed into a financial empire in Kazakhstan, of all places.
Freedom Holding Corp., helmed by 33-year-old billionaire Timur Turlov, has a unique arrangement that allows it to access hot new stocks in America. This pitch gives Russians, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, and Ukrainians a piece of Wall Street action, says Turlov . Those clients have reportedly gotten in on more than 100 US IPOs since 2020—access that is practically impossible for US-based wealth managers and small brokers.
There’s no shortage of players in Kazakhstan; its oil and mineral wealth has made the country’s elite eager to play the markets. According to Turlov, his firm has an affiliate of an unidentified hedge fund that buys the shares and passes them on. This access to IPOs is Freedom’s advantage over other firms, and Turlov’s larger-than-life persona, as described in the article, also draws in clients.
Still, the fact that an obscure player like Freedom is accessing in-demand IPOs is a puzzle. Turlov explains that an affiliate of the unnamed hedge fund gets its hands on the stock, then sells it to FFIN Brokerage Services Inc, an affiliate of Freedom’s that Turlov personally owns. FFIN eventually passes it on to Freedom for a fee, whose customers buy a derivative during the 3-month holding period to fix the share price to whatever they want. Another cog in Freedom’s machine is Lek Securities UK Limited, which temporarily holds the IPO shares, and regulatory filings show that the vast majority of Freedom’s European subsidiary routes its trades through Lek.
Despite Freedom’s connection to Lek, which FINRA called a “recidivist violator” of rules, both the SEC and the FINRA declined to comment on Freedom’s business practices. And Turlov tells Bloomberg that the skepticism about Freedom comes from people envying his success. “Almost any situation can become the basis for criticism,” he says in the article’s conclusion.
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