Sarah Chayes

Sarah Chayes’s remarkable trajectory has led her from reporting on the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan for National Public Radio, to opening a soap factory in Kandahar in the midst of a reigniting insurgency, to advising the topmost levels of the U.S. military.

Sarah is an internationally recognized expert on corruption in government networks throughout the world, and is one of the architects of America’s foreign anti-corruption policy. She has served as special adviser to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and two commanders of the international forces in Kabul, Generals David McKiernan and Stanley McChrystal.

She has been a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in the Democracy, Conflict, and Governance program, where her work explored how severe and structured corruption can prompt international crises such as revolutions, violent insurgency and environmental devastation. Her current work analyzes the implications of today’s hyper-monetized society in which money has become the dominant measure of social achievement, and the need for the restoration of societal values.

Sarah is the author of ON CORRUPTION IN AMERICA: And What Is at Stake, THE PUNISHMENT OF VIRTUE: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban, and THIEVES OF STATE: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security – the L.A. Times Book Prize winner that inspired Steven Soderbergh’s film, The Laundromat.

ON CORRUPTION IN AMERICA draws alarming parallels between some of the most corrupt countries in the world and our own. It exposes the tradition of systemic corruption from America’s Gilded Age through present day, how it affects every level of society and threatens the future of democracy. “If you want to save America, this might just be the most important book to read now.” – Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains

Sarah’s writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, Foreign Policy and Defense One. She is the recipient of Foreign Press Club and Sigma Delta Chi awards.

Speaking topics include the global epidemic of corruption; global security; kleptocracy in America; the modern “value” of money; ethics in business; corporate compliance and social responsibility.

Sarah Chayes

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“Both right and left revile ‘the swamp,’ but Sarah Chayes is the first to provide a compelling–to say nothing of brave–account of how sophisticated self-dealing networks of every stripe are rigging the rules and poisoning our politics. If you want to save America, [On Corruption in America] might just be the most important book to read now.” –Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains

“Every now and then, a book changes the way you see the world. It’s like shaking a kaleidoscope and suddenly all the bits and pieces fall into a new pattern. Sarah Chayes’s Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security shook my kaleidoscope.” – Rebecca Gordon, The Nation

“I can’t imagine a more important book for our time.” – Sebastian Junger

“Sarah Chayes weaves together history, adventure, political analysis, personal experience, culture, and religion in a shimmering and compelling tapestry.” – Anne-Marie Slaughter

“Sarah Chayes provides a vivid, ground-level view on how pervasive corruption undermines U.S. foreign policy and breeds insurgency.  Thieves of State provides critical lessons that all policymakers should heed.” – Francis Fukuyama

“[A] fascinating story. . . .Chayes argues, convincingly, [that state-sanctioned larceny is] a threat not just to Afghanistan’s national security but to that of the United States.” -Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker

“Sarah Chayes brilliantly illuminates a topic no one wants talk about―but we must. Corruption is an insidious force that is causing some of the most dangerous challenges our world is facing. It has to be at the core of America’s strategies, engagements and relationships for the twenty-first century.” – Admiral (ret.) Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Books, Films & Projects


Sarah Chayes explains what happens when money is the measure of social worth.

Sarah Chayes at the Westminster Town Hall Forum Lecture Series.

Sarah Chayes keynotes at the Integrity 20 conference.

CBC News: Sarah Chayes on what will happen now in Afghanistan


Announcing the paperback release of Sarah Chayes’s book, ON CORRUPTION IN AMERICA: And What is at Stake! Available November 23. Read an excerpt, listen to a sample, and pre-order your copy here.

Inside the Hive with Nick Bilton: Inside the 9/11 Coverup Worse Than Ukraine: Filmmakers Steven Soderbergh and Scott Burns talk about their new movie, The Laundromat, and the book that inspired the screenplay – Sarah Chayes’s THIEVES OF STATE – in this episode of Vanity Fair’s podcast.