The Informant (Movie Tie-in Edition): A True Story Paperback – Aug 11 2009
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"The FBI was ready to take down America's most politically powerful corporation. But there was one thing they didn't count on."
So reads the cover of this high-powered true crime story, an accurate teaser to a bizarre financial scandal with more plot twists than a John Grisham novel. In 1992 the FBI stumbled upon Mark Whitacre, a top executive at the Archer Daniels Midland corporation who was willing to act as a government witness to a vast international price-fixing conspiracy. ADM, which advertises itself as "The Supermarket to the World," processes grains and other farm staples into oils, flours, and fibers for products that fill America's shelves, from Jell-O pudding to StarKist tuna. The company's chairman and chief executive, Dwayne Andreas, was so influential that he introduced Ronald Reagan to Mikhail Gorbachev, and it was his maneuvering that ensured that high fructose corn syrup would replace sugar in most foods (ever wondered why Coke and Pepsi don't taste quite like they used to?). There were two mottoes at ADM: "The competitors are our friends, and the customers are our enemies" and "We know when we're lying." And lie they did. With the help of Whitacre, the FBI made hundreds of tapes and videos of ADM executives making price-fixing deals with their corrivals from Japan, Korea, and Canada, all while drinking coffee and laughing about their crimes. The tapes should have cinched the case, but there was one problem: Their star witness was manipulative, deceitful, and unstable. Nothing was as it seemed, and the investigation into one of the most astounding white-collar crime cases in history had only just begun.
Kurt Eichenwald, an investigative reporter, covered the story for The New York Times and interviewed more than 100 participants in the case. He methodically records the six-year investigation, leaving no plot twist or tape transcript unexplored. While his primary focus is on deconstructing the disturbed Whitacre and revealing the malleability of truth, the portrait of ADM (and even the Justice Department) is damning enough to make anyone a cynic. --Lesley Reed --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"The Informant is epic in scope, a tale of human foibles--of greed, deceit, and arrogance--and also of the search for truth. Eichenwald has told it masterfully, with the narrative drive of a novel. I guarantee it'll keep you reading late into the night."
-- Jonathan Harr, A Civil Action
"The Informant is superb reporting in the service of a great story, one with the drama and suspense of a Le Carré novel. Set squarely in the American heartland, delving into the inner sanctum of a global corporation, it explores the shifting boundaries of truth and deception, loyalty and betrayal. It is a remarkable achievement."
-- James B. Stewart, Den of Thieves and Blind Eye
"The twists and turns of this nonfiction work leave many thrillers in the dust. Eichenwald's spare prose and journalistic eye for detail make the pages fly."
-- David Baldacci, Absolute Power and Saving Faith
"I would say The Informant reads like Grisham, only nobody ever could have invented these characters. A tale this riveting and this strange could only have been built from truth."
-- Sherry Sontag, coauthor, Blind Man's Bluff
From the Hardcover edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Overall I enjoyed the book but I found it rather long. It literally was the fact that it described a true story (in perhaps such great detail to be a bit incredulous) that prompted me to carry on.
The author demonstrated an impressive commitment to the story that helped, but I think the volume of research overwhelms the ability to tell the story in a succinct manor.
The basic story, that the large agri-business Archer Daniels Midland - ADM - was caught in an international price-fixing scam for food additives would merit coverage in Business Week but little else. The key to the story is the informant himself, Mark Whitacre, the President of one of ADM's largest and most successful divisions. Manipulative, deceitful, delusional, sociopathic ... these are accurate but inadequate descriptions of the man who sucked ADM, the FBI and the DOJ into a five-year whirlwind, played out on the headlines of every newspaper in the country; he will suck you in, too.
Who hasn't wondered what kind of knucklehead responds to those crazy scam letters and emails from Nigeria? Actually, so many Americans with access to large amounts of cash responded in the 1980s and 1990s that the FBI had to set up a special liaison office in Lagos to deal with them. Meet Mark Whitacre: brilliant biochemist, builder and President of a hugely successful division of a multi-national corporation; and hopelessly entangled by his crazy belief that he could hit the jackpot by aiding corrupt Nigerian officials. And more, much, much more.
The story will sweep you along, from one unbelievable plot twist to another, not reaching a crescendo until the very end. Great fun. But also a great testament to the American justice system.Read more ›
Archer Daniels Midland is a Fortune 500 company located in Decatur, Illinois, and was at the time led by its chairman and chief executive officer, Dwayne Andreas, a politically connected millionaire. ADM is one of the world's largest grain producers, boasting that it is the "Supermarket to the World." Among other things, the company supplies many food manufacturers around the world with food additives such as citric acid, lysine, and corn syrup. To maintain large profit margins, however, the company had acquired many corrupt and illegal practices, all to be dissolved by Mark Whitacre.
Whitacre began his career at ADM at a relatively young age. With a doctorate in biochemistry, he was the president of the bioproducts division at ADM. Whitacre began his work with the FBI in 1992 when ADM began investigating corporate espionage by a competitor. It was believed that a major Japanese competitor, Ajinomoto, had planted a virus in one of ADM's lysine plants. The virus was believed to be the cause of abnormally low production levels. It was further suspected that the competitor had an employee working undercover at ADM to sabotage the plant.Read more ›
This book follows the amazing (and at many times unbelievable, but true) twists and turns of events in the years following an initial FBI investigation into suspected corporate espionage at ADM. The investigation quickly led to price fixing and anti-trust issues based on information supplied by "informant" Mark Whitacre. And it moves from there into other corporate crimes, driven by greed.
At first the story seems to be about a simple investigation into price fixing by ADM and many of its international "competitors" (even though the company viewed its customers as the true enemy). The book is written as the events turned out for the FBI, so even though the reader is presented with Whitacre being a strange man, the reader is led to believe that it is because he is stressed about being an informant, worried about being caught by ADM and threatened (as he saw in many fictional movies and books). But it turns into much more and all is not as it seems.
Parts of this book deal with complex financial and corporate issues, but Eichenwald deals with them in a way that is easy to understand.
The book is an incredibly easy read and even though the length can look danuting, I found myself flying through the book and always wanting to see what happens next. So in a sense it is an amazing page turner, just as much as any best selling thrilling novel.
I highly recommend this and be warned that this will make you skeptical of corporate greed and misdeeds and you'll know that many corporate exces were all criminals long before the downfall of Enron.
Most recent customer reviews
Very well written. I felt for Whitaker in the end. Punishment was harsh for a person who did helped the government so much!Published 2 months ago by Pradeep Kumar
Jumped around like a kangaroo on steroids. But there was just enough information at each step, to bring the reader along on a thrilling ride through what one of the characters in... Read morePublished 4 months ago by LM Teal
A very eye awakening story. I've learned a lot and gives me insights on the other sides ... Great story line.Published 4 months ago by Ellen
Very entertaining and eye-watering when you realize it is a true story. Kurt has a pretty good style of writing, sometimes gets tangled with too many details for too long, but not... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Objective
The story starts out as a somewhat interesting investigation of Archer Daniels Midland price fixing, and then delves into the fascinating web of deceipt, back stabbing, and a... Read morePublished on Sept. 10 2003 by Derrick Peterman