Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy
Title: Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy: The Secret World of Corporate Espionage
Author: Eamon Javers
Publisher: HarperBusiness, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0061697203, 320 pages
Review: Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy
By Rolf Dobelli, Chairman, getAbstract
Your competitors might be rummaging through your trash, eavesdropping on your conversations or studying satellite images of your properties. Corporate espionage is more common than you might imagine, writes journalist Eamon Javers in this intriguing study of commercial spying. He offers an impressively thorough study of its past and present, and he doesn't shy away from the thorny issues this sort of activity raises. Javers' use of court documents and his interviews with industry players create a well-rounded look at this little-noticed corner of capitalism. getAbstract recommends this book to anyone who enjoys a good spy story as well as to users and targets of corporate espionage. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you.
Spooks for Hire
When billions are at stake, corporate spies are sure to follow. In recent years, a cottage industry of intelligence gatherers has emerged. Companies hire these spies to collect information about their competitors, or to vet high-level hires. Many private agents received their training in the military or in the U.S. and British intelligence services. Their tactics run from simple "dumpster diving" to satellite monitoring. Sometimes, spies pose as executive recruiters or documentary filmmakers. In rare cases, they orchestrate elaborate stings.
In one such example, Mikhail Fridman, a Russian oligarch who owned the financial consortium Alfa Group, wanted possibly incriminating information on his rival, Leonid Reiman, and his conglomerate, IPOC. To get the data, Fridman's Washington lobbyists hired Diligence, an intelligence firm, to investigate Reiman. The dispute traveled to Bermuda, where the government had hired the local office of the KPMG accounting firm to investigate IPOC's ownership and infrastructure. Diligence agents sought KPMG staffers who would leak information. They targeted a couple of personality profiles: a partying, young male or an insecure, frumpy female. Ultimately, though, they co-opted British accountant Guy Enright, who did not fit their profiles. Instead of simply asking him to give or sell them data, Diligence's operatives appealed to his patriotism. Posing as British intelligence officers, they told Enright that the secret documents he was providing were crucial to national security. The lobbying firm paid Diligence $25,000 a month plus costs for its trickery. Enright dutifully turned over the data, and Diligence rewarded him with a Rolex. He didn't realize he'd been duped until the secret sting later became public.
Spying isn't always so unsavory; sometimes it's just savvy reporting. Before its failure, Enron decided it could gain an advantage by determining when European power plants were about to close for scheduled maintenance. When the plants are down, power prices rise, creating an opportunity for energy traders. Diligence set out to gain this valuable data by hiring small planes to fly over German, French and Dutch power plants. The spies watched for telltale details, such as the dwindling stacks of coal or increasing numbers of portable toilets in the yard - both indicative of a forthcoming closure. In some cases, firms turn surveillance tools on themselves. Wal-Mart studied satellite imagery of its most popular stores to find traits that might explain their high performance, like neighborhood characteristics and even which direction the entrances faced.
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