True story.  One day one of my colleagues asked if I would be willing to talk to a Russian fellow, Victor Vidov, about my paper on the design of electricity marketing contracts.  Victor worked in some trade-oriented post at the Russian embassy.

It was some time before I ever received a call from Victor.  Indeed, Victor inquired with my colleague about when I would give him a call.  So I did.

The paper was about how utilities and electricity marketers design contracts to support the financing of electricity generation facilities.  Victor did not have very analytical, deep questions about contract design or financing. The call did not last very long, and I can’t even remember what he had asked.

Some time later my colleague inquired if I had ever spoken with Victor.  I reported that I had.  My colleague then indicated that I could expect a call from the FBI.

Haw?

I got a call from the FBI.  We organized an interview at my office.  Two courteous young fellows showed up.  I brought them to a conference room and gave them a copy of my paper.  The paper, after all, constituted much of the context.

One agent inquired if I had ever been interviewed by the FBI before for I seemed very prepared.  (Bringing along a copy of the paper constituted “being prepared,” I guess.)  I had not.

It was not a long interview as it was not obvious what interest Victor had in the paper, but the FBI agents volunteered that the FBI keeps track of what folks like Victor are up to.  Victor was a Russian agent who takes orders from Moscow to research various industrial sectors.  The FBI keeps track of what the Russians are researching, because it may give it clues about what the Russians are up to.  The Russians might, for example, be thinking about what industrial sector in their own country to take over next.  Or something.

I never received an invitation to present the paper in Russia.  St. Petersburg or Volgograd might have been nice.