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The Informant: A True Story Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1 edition (July 3, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767903277
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767903271
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"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.

Review

"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.

More About the Author

Kurt Eichenwald has written about Wall Street for The New York Times since 1987. He began investigating the Prudential scandal in 1989 and, in 1993, took a leave from his daily Market Place column to investigate Prudential Bache full time. His efforts yielded Serpent on the Rock and a Publisher's Award from the Times.

Customer Reviews

Highly recommended for non-fiction fans.
morehumanthanhuman
The key to the story is the informant himself, Mark Whitacre, the President of one of ADM's largest and most successful divisions.
GEORGE R. FISHER
The book is well written, exciting, detailed and fun to read.
J. Barcelo

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

94 of 97 people found the following review helpful By James R. Moriarty on September 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
On the rare occasions when the banal details of corporate crime are uncovered, developed and prosecuted, the inside story is sometimes difficult to believe. Even more often, these stories, particularly those involving complex financial chicanery, fail to survive the conversion to film or print.
An obvious exception is "The Informant," Kurt Eichenwald's extraordinary new book about the Archer Daniels Midland Company price-fixing scandal in the mid-1990s. Mr. Eichenwald, an award-winning journalist at The New York Times, has balanced a cast of a nearly unimaginable characters with meticulous reporting and sourcing built on endless of hours of government tapes, documentary evidence and interviews.
Mr. Eichenwald's masterfully constructed narrative describes how ADM, the self-styled "Supermarket to the World," conspired with international competitors to corner food additive markets. The book focuses on Mark Whitacre, the wildly contradictory former ADM executive whose secret cooperation with the FBI apparently was intended to hide his own crimes. As Mr. Eichenwald writes, the book is about the "malleable nature of the truth," and how nothing in the ADM case was necessarily what it appeared to be. Along the way, the story is told in a way that "lend[s] temporary credence to the many lies told in this investigation," according to Mr. Eichenwald. In the end, the book accomplishes what few of its kind have: it has woven an otherwise tedious collection of technical and legal details and deceptions into one of the best tales of corporate crime in the past 20 years.
As the federal government found in its development of the ADM case, it's difficult to humanize corporate schemes, whether in civil or criminal litigation, or in the news or entertainment media.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Michele A. Raupp on October 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As a Decatur resident, I couldn't wait to get into this book and read the stories behind the headlines. I was not disappointed. Many of the names in the book are more than familiar to me. It was fascinating to relive the chronology, all the while remembering what kind of scuttlebutt was going about town at certain points of the story.
Eichenwald has told this tale well. There are times when it is difficult to follow, but not due to the writer. There were just so many people involved, keeping them straight almost requires a white board and colored markers. The characters were depicted well. Between Whitacre's obvious instability and the government's inability to coordinate itself, it was like watching the Grinch's sleigh teeter on the tip top of the mountain. Will it crash or won't it?
I did find a few errors in the story, but they were not central to the story. (E.g. there is no passenger train service in Decatur - I assumed the writer meant Springfield. And there were a few mix-ups concerning dates.)
One word of caution to anyone who reads this book, however. It's easy to think of ADM as some faceless giant plundering its way through the agri-buisness world. But remember; the actions for which ADM was fined and three people were sent to jail are the actions of a few individuals. ADM employs thousands that put in an honest day's work every day. I am proud to call many of these people my friends.
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114 of 130 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on September 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I read hundreds of books in a year, and this work is one of the best I have read in 2000. Kurt Eichenwald deserves an award for getting it through the attorneys and then to publication.
Eichenwald, a finalist for the year 2000 Pulitzer and winner of other awards for his writing, has not only taken a riddle, wrapped in mystery, and shrouded by an enigma,(a nod to Winston Churchill) and made it readable, he has created a brilliant book. He created a book that could stand as a work of Fiction and be a novel of excellence, or be true to this bizarre story that strains credibility so many times, and yet he manages to give every bit of credence the reader needs to believe. Mike Wallace of 60 minutes couldn't have dissected this tale with greater skill.
And if you think I jest about the novel it would make, if 19th Century is your style, think Wilkie Collins, or if your taste is more contemporary, perhaps Charles Palliser of Quincunx fame. That is the type of labyrinthine thought that would be required to conjure this story from thin air.
At the center of the story is what at first seems to be an all-too-common tale. American consumers have gotten a great deal of exposure recently as to how a company can, in the opinion of The Justice Department, be detrimental to the public welfare. I would suggest there are issues that make bureaucratic careers, and issues that are literally participants in the lives of nearly all of us, and they are important.
Unless you treat eating as an extreme sport, you probably have not snacked on any software lately, be it Microsoft, or even Apple.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In the antitrust case against Archer Daniels Midland for world-wide price fixing in lysine (a feed ingredient that makes animals grow more rapidly), the U.S. government relied on Mark Whitacre, an ADM executive. In legal terminology, he was playing the role of 'cooperating witness.' Eventually, three ADM executives would be sentenced to jail and a $100 million fine would be paid by the company to settle the case.
But while Whitacre was cooperating at one level, he was not at many other levels. He informed the FBI of the conspiracy in the beginning, or there would have been no continuing investigation and no case.
Although novels often have characters do things like that, it never happens in ordinary course. No executive in the middle of a price-fixing case had ever turned themselves in before. What a coup! Or was it?
For something strange was going on. In the beginning, Whitacre had attracted the attention of the FBI by having reported to ADM that a competitor was sabotaging ADM's production of lysine with a virus. Soon in the investigation, Whitacre admitted to the FBI that this had never happened. Tipped off that Whitacre was flaky, the government relied on many lie detector tests and tape recordings to get the facts. What they never realized was that Whitacre couldn't tell a straight story if his life depended on it.
Then came the biggest surprise. Just as the government took its case public, ADM came back with charges that Whitacre had been stealing millions of dollars from the company while serving as a cooperating witness with the government. The company was right, and Whitacre was successfully prosecuted for these thefts. ADM also tried to make the case that the FBI caused this to happen, but was rebuffed in its arguments.
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