A True Story
By Kurt Eichenwald
(Broadway Books, Paperback, 9780767903271, 656pp.)
Publication Date: July 3, 2001
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From an award-winning New York Times investigative reporter comes an outrageous story of greed, corruption, and conspiracy—which left the FBI and Justice Department counting on the cooperation of one man . . .
It was one of the FBI's biggest secrets: a senior executive with America's most politically powerful corporation, Archer Daniels Midland, had become a confidential government witness, secretly recording a vast criminal conspiracy spanning five continents. Mark Whitacre, the promising golden boy of ADM, had put his career and family at risk to wear a wire and deceive his friends and colleagues. Using Whitacre and a small team of agents to tap into the secrets at ADM, the FBI discovered the company's scheme to steal millions of dollars from its own customers.
But as the FBI and federal prosecutors closed in on ADM, using stakeouts, wiretaps, and secret recordings of illegal meetings around the world, they suddenly found that everything was not all that it appeared. At the same time Whitacre was cooperating with the Feds while playing the role of loyal company man, he had his own
agenda he kept hidden from everyone around him—his wife, his lawyer, even the FBI agents who had come to trust him with the case they had put their careers on the line for. Whitacre became sucked into his own world of James Bond antics, imperiling the criminal case and creating a web of deceit that left the FBI and prosecutors uncertain where the lies stopped and the truth began.
In this gripping account unfolds one of the most captivating and bizarre tales in the history of the FBI and corporate America. Meticulously researched and richly told by New York Times senior writer Kurt Eichenwald, The Informant re-creates the drama of the story, beginning with the secret recordings, stakeouts, and interviews with suspects and witnesses to the power struggles within ADM and its board—including the high-profile chairman Dwayne Andreas, F. Ross Johnson, and Brian Mulroney—to the big-gun Washington lawyers hired by ADM and on up through the ranks of the Justice Department to FBI Director Louis Freeh and Attorney General Janet Reno.
A page-turning real-life thriller that features deadpan FBI agents, crooked executives, idealistic lawyers, and shady witnesses with an addiction to intrigue, The Informant tells an important and compelling story of power and betrayal in America
Kurt Eichenwald has written about white-collar crime and corporate cor-ruption for the New York Times for more than a decade. A two-time winner of the prestigious George Polk award for excellence in journalism and a finalist for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize, he has been repeatedly selected by TJFR Business News Reporter as one of the nation's most influential financial journalists. For the Times, he has covered some of the highest-profile news stories emanating from the business world, including the Archer Daniels Midland story, and he is the author of Serpent on the Rock. Eichenwald lives in Westchester County, outside New York City, with his wife and three children.
The Informant opened in theaters on Friday. Although the movie is sometimes played for laughs, the real story was no laughing matter. It's based on a late-1990s case against the conglomerate Archer Daniels Midland. Executives there were accused of orchestrating a worldwide conspiracy to fix prices. Host Liane Hansen speaks to investigative writer Kurt Eichenwald, whose book, The Informant: A True Story, is the subject of the new movie starring Matt Damon. More at NPR.org
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"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