Customer Reviews for

The Informant

Average Rating 4
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2000

    Cooperating Witness?

    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. As a result of his double-dealing, Whitacre had blown his immunity agreement with the government and was one of the three ADM executives who were convicted of the price-fixing conspiracy. The story is written from the perspective of the FBI agents conducting the investigation. You will be fooled, along with them, as they pursue the case. It makes for the most complicated, convoluted set of events you can imagine. John Le Carre's stories are much simpler, by comparison. Although I had read about the case as it unfolded in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times (where Eichenwald covered it), the details came as a surprise in many cases. Eichenwald has gotten access to a tremendous amount of raw material including 800 hours of interviews with 100 people, 10,000 plus pages of data including secret grand jury testimony, and transcripts from secret recordings made by Whitacre. As a result, he has created a detailed dialogue of key events that reads like a screenplay. You will feel like you are there. The techniques are like fiction, but the material is fact. I cannot resist pointing out that this book reaffirms the maxim that truth is always stranger than fiction. Here's the author's wrap-up on the lessons here: 'But in the end, it was Mark Whitacre -- a person who remains as puzzling as he is tragic -- who was most most damaged by his falsehoods.' Certainly, one question you will have is how ADM could put such a kook in charge of an important product area. I can only report that in my career as a management consultant, I have met a number of such fakes in the ranks of senior management of client companies. Reference checking would have spotted any one of these frauds, as it would have with Whitacre. He had lied about his academic background (apparently over a third of job applicants do). So ADM was sloppy. In this subject of how frauds get ahead in companies, Eichenwald had the chance to make this book a broad perspective on the weaknesses of the American corporation at the end of the 20th century. He passed on that opportunity, which diminishes the potential of this otherwise wonderful book. What surprised me was that the FBI continued to lend any credib

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2012

    Infom

    Hey

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Truth really is stranger than fiction

    I never though I'd say this, but this has been a really fun read. Eichenwald has turned a potentially dry subject into a thoroughly engrossing look at corporate and personal greed. Mark Whitacre, the ADM executive who wore the wire for the FBI, was just a bit nutty, which definitely helps.

    I lived in Decatur from kindergarten through sixth grade and that we still take day trips there on a semi-regular basis. When he describes driving to the Hampton Inn in Forsyth, I can visualize it clearly. That really added to the story for me. It's hard to believe that something this weird could happen in Decatur, Illinois. This one is a keeper.

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  • Posted December 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Loved it!!!

    Unbelievable!One doesn't often find a book that is both exciting and informative. So bizarre it's hard to believe it's a true story. The plot is riveting and totally unpredictable. The inside look at how the FBI and the Department of Justice work is fascinating, not to mention I had no idea people can make gazillions of dollars from manufacturing amino acids.I live in Minneapolis and have always wondered what Cargill makes. Had heard the name Archer Daniels Midland but had no idea what they did either. Now I know. Can't wait to see the movie.

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  • Posted October 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great story that can only be true.

    Excellent crime & business novel from beginning to end. While a bit complex at times, this is the kind of story so unbelieveable it can only be true.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2006

    Incredible

    So well written, you feel like your right in the middle of the story. You say to yourself, I can't believe this is true.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2006

    Needed editing

    Excessively detailed, repetitious, deadly boring in spots. Needed editing in a big way.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2003

    Best of Breed

    This is simply the best book of its kind, which focuses a telescope as well as a microscope on the workings of the legal system, the FBI, and the Justice Department. The book's greatest fascination, though, is its expose of the character and the personality of the informant, hence the choice of title. This should be required reading for a college course, but I fear that course does not exist. What department? American Civilization? And I thought anti-trust law was dull!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2002

    Brilliant

    Outstanding. I could not put this book down. The only word to describe the main character is bizarre. That¿s all I can share about the story, you will understand why when you read it. I read 12 ¿ 18 books a year and if I were forced to chose only one, this is it by far. Many authors could have made this thrilling story seem dry. The investigative work and the writing of this author was nothing less than brilliant. I immediately ordered his other book ¿Serpent On The Rock¿. I¿m sure this will cause more late reading nights for me. Can¿t wait for Eichenwald¿s next one! How about an Enron, Global Crossing, or Tyco story???

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2002

    SIMPLY AMAZING!

    This psychological thriller is hands down one of the best books I've ever read. It is definitely better than Stephen King or Michael Creighton books, but IT'S ALL TRUE! I simply could not put this book down. Riveting, Suspenseful, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2002

    A True Page Turner. Non-Fiction that Reads like Fiction

    This book provides a great mix of everything - mystery, psychology, business, ethics and government. It hits upon so many incredible dynamics that the reader gets swept away in what reads like a great FBI novel -EXCEPT, it is all true. Good Book that will keep you entertained and will educate you as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2001

    Gripping and Forceful . . .

    Eichenwald captivates the reader from page one. The story is full of corporate greed and espionage, government bureaucracy and intelligence, and those souls caught in between. A harrowing tale sure to enliven the senses and strengthen any book collection.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2001

    A little lysine larceny

    I had purchased The Informant as a resource book for my next novel little knowing what an outstanding story lay within. I was quick to realize that the non-fiction book that I was reading read like a fiction thriller. Many times, as author Kurt Eichenwald vividly described the process of how the FBI groomed their informant, I realized that I was feeling both tense and anxious. I know that only a very powerful story could invoke those emotions in me. Needless to say The Informant proved an excellent book for me to read. The bonus for me was that I got all of the information I needed to craft my next fiction novel, which will deal with an FBI and Navy sting operation and an informant. I might add that The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre, recently released and on it's way to the bestseller list (see my review), deals with something similar to the Archer Daniels Midland anti trust case. In Le Carre's book it is the pharmaceutical-government complex that are the bad guys.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2001

    A fascinating true story

    This book is hard to put down. It's a true story about price-fixing conspiracies in a giant corporation, embezzlement, buying political and media influence, and even how the notorious Nigerian oil scam sucked in a supposedly brilliant executive. Some corporate executives went to prison but the corporation survives as 'supermarket to the world'. I wonder if this story will ever be told on PBS by David Brinkley, now mouthpiece for the corporation??

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2000

    Riveting!

    I was literally up all night reading this book. It might sound dry, but it is compelling, suspenseful and even funny. This is a fascinating psychological thriller, mystery, farce and business primer all rolled into one. One of the best books I've read in awhile -- and I read a lot!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2010

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    Posted February 12, 2011

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    Posted August 4, 2011

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    Posted June 15, 2011

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    Posted January 10, 2011

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