Book Review: Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy: The Secret World of Corporate Espionage

Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy (by Eamon Javer, Washington correspondent, CNBC) threw up conflicting feelings for me.

On the one hand, this book did what it says on the tin: it provides a rough historical sketch of the emergence of the private intelligence industry, focusing specifically on corporate espionage.

And yet — although undoubtedly well-written — it never quite managed to be enthralling.

Yes, there were interesting glimmers of tradecraft and information, most particularly surrounding the techniques used by various sides during the Chocolate Price War between Nestlé and Mars (I found the fact that spies would replace the stolen trash with dummy trash quite entertaining).

But other than that, after reaching its conclusion, I was left with the feeling that I had read a jumbled assortment of anecdotes gleaned from conversations with a potpourri of private intelligence operatives (all from a similar background with various government intelligence services). Although the firm names and operations differed, the book somewhat repetitively recounts how various retired government spies are all doing more or less the same thing: repurposing their skills in the private sector for greater compensation and selling them to the highest bidder.

The book whet my palette enough that I would like to learn a little more about private and corporate espionage.

But it wasn’t as enthralling or page-turning read as I had expected.

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