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The Informant:

I just finished reading Kurt Eichenwald's amazing book The Informant, about the antitrust investigateion of Archer Daniels Midland for price-fixing in the 1990s and Mark Whitacre, the ADM senior executive who agreed to cooperate and even to record conversations with other members of the global conspiracy.

Wow--what a great read! Certainly one of the best books I've ever read on a legal subject and especially interesting for those of us who work on antitrust and competition law issues.

I know the book is a few years old but I just finally got around to it now. A few years back I gave a speech at a Japanese Fair Trade Commission conference where Scott Hammond of the DOJ also spoke. He showed some of the videotapes from the investigation. Here's another version of Hammond's speech that contains links to various excerpts from the transcripts of the video and audio tapes recorded by "the informant" Mark Whitacre. The transcripts make for interesting reading.

Does anyone know if the lysine price-fixing videotapes are available on-line anywhere?

Update:

Josh Wright has the address at DOJ to contact if you want copies of the videotapes.

Update:

A Commenter points me to this Wikipedia page that provides an update on some of the figures in the book as well as some controversies about the author, the book, and some of the claims in it. Very interesting. Whitacre is now out of prison and a senior executive at a California biotech company.

Prosecutorial Indiscretion:
I haven't seen the price fixing videotapes but the funniest thing I've ever seen is one of those tapes from a lamp camera where the Americans, Japanese, and Koreans are dividing up a market (I think it's lysine but it might've been one of the other commodities), someone knocks on the door, another guy cracks a joke about it being the FBI, and the whole crowd cracks up laughing. I'll take a peek around Youtube to see if any of those videos are up.

Incidentally, The Informant is one of the best books I've read and gives great insight into how federal law enforcement works. Readers considering a prosecutorial career definitely ought to give it a read.
10.23.2007 11:28am
In the Hat:
Have not read the book, but there was a great episode of This American Life featuring Kurt Eichenwald (#168: The Fix is In). It was compelling radio, certainly a "driveway moment" for me. A good alternative for those who have a driving commute and might want to listen to the story. :)
10.23.2007 11:36am
liberty (mail) (www):
So, is the major crime (in your eyes) the fraud, or the choosing of one's own price without obeying government restrictions on cooperation with others in the marketplace?

Just curious.
10.23.2007 11:38am
John Steele (mail):
It's also a great book to excerpt for a legal ethics class. If any PR teachers want to discuss it, I have some slides and some thoughts about the book.
10.23.2007 12:34pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
One time I heard about a bunch of producers (it was more than just two or three, the numbers colluding were astounding) getting together to fix the price of a commodity that they sold to the government. The government got wind of this, and not only did politicians do nothing to stop it, many actually encouraged it, gave stump speeches about how the collusion was a "good thing," and required the government to purchase from the cartel.

I think the market that the suppliers were colluding in was the labor market. I can't remmeber why, but for some reason the collusion was distinguished from collusion in other markets. It made sense to my mom, but then she was a public school teacher. I think that her principled support for the collusion was based on the fact that the collusion got us a nicer house... or something. Oh, but oil companies are evil...
10.23.2007 1:38pm
badger (mail):
The This American Life story is available here free: http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=837
10.23.2007 1:46pm
Alex Blackwell (mail):
I, too, thought The Informant was a great read, even better than Eichenwald's subsequent and widely-praised book on Enron, Conspiracy of Fools.

I've also heard that a movie based on The Informant is in pre-production.
10.23.2007 2:55pm
Cornellian (mail):
someone knocks on the door, another guy cracks a joke about it being the FBI, and the whole crowd cracks up laughing.

I saw that video when I took antitrust in law school - that scene was hilarious!

Antitrust is a great course by the way. I'd highly recommend it to law students as long as your school's antitrust prof has a reputation is a capable instructor. I'd hate to think of what that course would be like with a bad instructor.
10.23.2007 3:35pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"and gives great insight into how federal law enforcement works"

Great insight? I have reason to believe my husband and I have been subjected to over a four-year effort by the feds. to entrap us on something, anything, called forth simply because I have autism and filed a very unpopular Title II Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit in federal court against State court judges.

This led to what I described on the currently active Samuel B. Kent thread, speech and stalking events targeted toward my autism-vision impairment disabilities.

I also have reason to believe several informants have been used against my husband and I in these entrapment efforts, including one Bradley Boyce Bowen, published in public record pleadings in the Thirteenth Judicial CIrcuit of Florida to be a confidential informant for DEA, and another person who was convicted of a viscious dog bite on my husband who I am virtually certain was wearing a wire and correcting my autistic speech just like a court reporter would on an official transcript.

What struck me about some of the materials presented in the above thread via hyperlink, is how some of these informants are liars in their own right committing crimes while under the feds protection during their informant activities. I remain in shock that the US DOJ/FBI Confidential Informant Guidelines would allow this -- event immunize informants to commit such crimes up to murder.

In my own case, this Bradley Boyce Bowen, while starving my equine disability service horse, preyed on my disabilities by stealing $400 and additional horse feed from me while starving (not feeding for days at a time) my disability service horse. He offered to give my husband drigs to replace the money he stole, and my husband had to tell him my disability service horse does not eat drugs and we wanted repayment of the money.

In the other case, the person who appeared like a court reporter correcting a transcript, went into animal court, and testified under Oath that her dog never bit my husband; after the Circuit Court Judge asked my husband to show him the dog bite scar, that person was convicted of the viscious dog bite. The person also admitted being involved as a handler of a horse that was electrocuted in a very famous horse insurance fraud scheme for which her former employer pled guilty in federal court.

I suppose these things, too, give 'great insight into how federal law enforcment works.' And, one has to wonder if the FBI/law enforcement taping transcripts of people with know severel language-communication disabilities such as autism, ensure that their informants are proviing such disabled persons the speech relay services and CART real time transcription auxiliary aids and services required of them by Secs. 504 &508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and/or if a JTTF involving state governmental actors, Title II of the ADA -- after all, if such transcripts are intendede to be used in court, they are subject to the disability anti-discrimination qualified interpreter/CART real time/speech relay services requirements.

I am not really familiar with the price fixing area, but in general, it makes me sick how disabled people are targeted for their unpopular speech content (e.g. enforcement of the ADA, global warming, etc.), in sum, for the real reason that most people have an aversion to the type of disability they have -- autism.
10.23.2007 3:47pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
corrections:
"event immunize informants to commit such crimes up to murder." = even immunize informants to commit such crimes up to murder.

"He offered to give my husband drigs to replace the money he stole" = He offered to give my husband drugs to replace the money he stole

"And, one has to wonder if the FBI/law enforcement taping transcripts of people with know severel language-communication disabilities such as autism, ensure that their informants are proviing such disabled persons the speech relay services and CART real time transcription auxiliary aids and services required of them" = And, one has to wonder if the FBI/law enforcement taping transcripts of people with known severe language-communication disabilities such as autism, ensure that their informants are providing such disabled persons the speech relay services and CART real time transcription auxiliary aids and services required of them

I also am perplexed with respect to my foregoing comment, how if a person is targeted because of aversion to their disabilities, the unpopular content of their speech (including having sought to exercise their rights under federal disability anti-discrimination laws), and informants are apparently used such as under the above circumstances described (committing their own crimes, lying, threatening and intimidating), how this would not fit the prohibited retaliation facts almost square on point to Weixel v. NYC Bd. of Educ., 287 F.3d 138 (2nd Cir. 2002), where an actual criminal prosecution was initiated on the victim in response to their ADA protected activiies (requesting reasonable accomodations).
10.23.2007 4:01pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
In sum, I agree with the thread post and hyperlinks, that there can be two sides to every story, and it is not always as clear cut as one side might try to make it sound just to win a political conviction, especially if such is for reasons of protecting one or more important public figures.
10.23.2007 4:04pm
Wahoowa:
Mary Katherine:

call your congressman. when I worked on capitol hill, we absolutely LOVED getting phone calls from people like you [/snark]
10.23.2007 4:04pm
Update:
Lawyer and author James B. Lieber disagreed with Eichenwald on several fronts and had several different conclusions than Eichenwald in his book, "Rats in the Grain"

Furthermore, reporter Alan Guebert also disagreed with Eichenwald's book and recently (August 21, 2007) reported on Eichenwald's stack of embellishments and his fall from grace including Eichenwald being thrown out of his journalism career and the criminal investigation of Eichenwald.

There are numerous recent articles on Eichenwald about his case.
10.23.2007 4:49pm
Update:
Hyperlinks added to the above comment:

Lawyer and author James B. Lieber disagreed with Eichenwald on several fronts and had several different conclusions than Eichenwald in his book, "Rats in the Grain"

Furthermore, reporter Alan Guebert also disagreed with Eichenwald's book and recently (August 21, 2007) reported on Eichenwald's stack of embellishments and his fall from grace including Eichenwald being thrown out of his journalism career and the criminal investigation of Eichenwald.

There are numerous recent articles on Eichenwald about his case.
10.23.2007 4:58pm
Alex Blackwell (mail):
There is more on the Wikipedia page, including, believe it or not, efforts to secure a presidential pardon for Whitacre by law enforcement figures involved in his case.

As for Eichenwald "being thrown out of his journalism career," I think that's an exaggeration, though I'll agree he has experienced somewhat of a "fall from grace" stemming from the controversy of his child pornography reporting at The New York Times. On the other hand, see his latest public comments on the subject.
10.23.2007 5:19pm
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
Wahoowa --
"Mary Katherine:

call your congressman. when I worked on capitol hill, we absolutely LOVED getting phone calls from people like you [/snark]"

In that you admit you worked on Capital Hill, and you further admit obstruction of justice over the wires, as well as having committed the act her and now of harassing a disabled person under an anonymous blog ID, I believe your knowledge that Congress passed 47 U.S.C. Sec. 223 requiring you to disclose your real true full name and identity applies at this juncture.
10.23.2007 5:55pm
Update:
Eichenwald was let go by (or had to resign from) both New York Times and more recently by Portfolio Magazine because of his "paying a source several large payments" scandal according to several recent articles. According to the new NPR interview last week, the one that Alex Blackwell links to above, Eichenwald and his wife both stated in that interview that he is unable to get a job in journalism because of the scandal. How is that not considered "being thrown out of his journalism career"?

I also reviewed the Wikipedia article that Alex Blackwell links to above, and it looks to me that the FBI are more in line with James Lieber's conclusions than Eichenwald's. It also looks to me, based on that review and the references, that the FBI is supporting Whitacre quite strongly. Either way, Lieber and Eichenwald have very different conclusions about that case. And Paisley (who is with the FBI) appears to be in Lieber's camp based on the review that Alex Blackwell links to above.
10.23.2007 7:25pm
Zywicki (mail):
Update, Alex:
Thanks for the links. Interesting reading. I get one book off my giant stack of reading (The Informant) and now I get to add a new one (Rats in the Grain). Looks like I'll never catch up...
10.23.2007 7:29pm
Alex Blackwell (mail):
How is that not considered "being thrown out of his journalism career"?

If, by Eichenwald's own words, he can't get a job, then far be it from me to argue the point. So yes, I'll concede that he has, functionally at least, "bee[n] thrown out of his journalism career."

Given his writing talents, though, I doubt if he'll be permanently unemployed in journalism.

And I agree with you about Lieber's book.
10.23.2007 7:41pm
Alex Blackwell (mail):
I get one book off my giant stack of reading (The Informant) and now I get to add a new one (Rats in the Grain). Looks like I'll never catch up...

I just went to the public library and checked out a copy of Lieber's book for myself ;-)

And I found a review of both books at SSRN.
10.23.2007 8:28pm
Update:
Alex,
I also noticed that the Wikipedia article that you linked had several different reviews of both books in the reference section with hyperlinks attached to each reference.
10.23.2007 9:27pm
Brian Macker (mail) (www):
DeezRightWingNutz,

LOL! Not just the labor unions either. Think Jimmy Carter and how his family got rich, and all the price fixing that goes on in agriculture.
10.23.2007 11:12pm