Once the chief financial officer of the tech firm Broadcom, Ruehle faced potential sentencing of more than 350 years in prison after federal prosecutors in Southern California charged him with multiple felonies for alleged corporate malfeasance. Here, he tells his side of the story.
Corporate executives are hardly sympathetic figures these days. But for Ruehle, the negative spotlight and resultant court case against him amounted to a “politically motivated, media-driven backdating frenzy.” He gives a credible account of his multiyear ordeal, which ultimately ended in December 2009 when a judge declared Ruehle’s innocence and admonished the government for overzealousness. Along with providing realistic glimpses inside the corporate world (“Staff meetings—a new level of agony”), the book could serve as a useful primer for budding legal eagles in the practice of law versus the theory of law. Government lawyers strong-armed potential witnesses into lying for them by holding potential prosecutions and prison terms over their heads; potential defense witnesses were discouraged or “frozen” with similar tactics. “A criminal trial is very much like a war,” Ruehle writes, and he lucidly documents his own legal battles, as his high-priced defense team sifted through 6 million pages of evidence in order to “pry the truth” out of prosecution witnesses during cross-examinations “like an oral surgeon extracting a tooth.” Besides providing observations on good and bad lawyering, the book also offers a simple but useful lesson for these tech-dependent times: “Always be extra careful when writing e-mails.” Although Ruehle gives a clear, convincing account of courtroom tactics and strategies, he’s weak on the human aspects of the trial; most of the leading characters come across as colorless. Even a dab of physical description would have illuminated this chronicle a bit more. Also, the first chapter, which gives a brief history of Broadcom and an explanation of stock options, feels tacked on; it doesn’t cleanly segue into the rest of the book. Still, Ruehle offers an instructive, remarkably evenhanded account of “how overwhelming it could be to fight the federal government.”
An effective indictment of governmental abuse of power written by an unlikely but excellent source.