The Informant

Over the past week, I’ve been lugging this 600+ page book around the city, sneaking glimpses at it whenever I could, in waiting rooms and during lunch breaks, wishing that this week’s busy social calendar didn’t get in the way of my devouring this book. Last night, I stayed up late finishing it, and it was worth the effort.
Hands down the best non fiction of the year for me. The price-fixing scandal at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM, supermarket to the world) that took place in the 1990s (and before), conversations taped by a high level executive that implicated the heads of the company in fixing the price and volume of at least a dozen of their products (lysine, citric, etc.). The effect of price fixing was to increase prices for the farmers which in turn increased food prices for the world. Companies in Japan, Korea, and Europe were also involved.
Mark Whitacre the key informant to the FBI, only he turns out to be a wee bit imbalanced. As in, completely loony and untrustworthy. He goes through a variety of FBI handlers, telling them he’s cooperating, and yet perpetrating fraud during the same time (funneling $9M to Swiss and Cayman accounts). Interesting perspective on the infighting at the Department of Justice, where the anti-fraud case against Whitacre requires a Chinese Wall from the price-fixing case the DOJ is fighting.
Reads like a thrilling spy novel in the best of senses; sadly, it’s also a true story and a look inside the corporate board rooms of the last decade. This can’t be an isolated incident… but luckily Whitacre was crazy enough to give us all a peek inside.

auth=Eichenwald, Kurt
sub=A True Story