Whitacre's Story of Price Fixing Hits Big Screen

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The new movie "The Informant," starring Matt Damon, tells the story of Mark Whitacre, the highest-level executive to be a whistleblower in U.S. history.

It may be Damon's face on the big screen, but it's Whitacre's story and his role as the whistleblower in a 1990's price-fixing case.

"Well I was president of division of one of the largest companies in the world," Whitacre said. "And I was H32 and became the youngest divisional president there at the company at ADM. And really it was my wife who made the decision that she was gonna tell the FBI if I didn't. I was all about greed, power, and moving up the corporate ladder. And really if it werent for my wife, I dont think I'd ever blew the whistle."

With Whitacre as the government's informant, the Archer Daniels Midland Company was hit with a $100 million fine, and prison time for some of it's top executives, including Whitaker.

"Well price fixing is a horrific crime in corporation because what you're really doing, you're forming a cartel," Whitacre continued. "You're getting together with your competitors, where you no longer have a free market which is required by law to have a free market. And you're splitting up the customers so you allow competitor A to take a certain set of customers, you have competitor B to take a certain amount. What it does it really gouges the consumers,"

The movie tells the story of the case and Whitacre's bi-polar disorder.

"I was suffering from an undiagnosed, untreated bi-polar disorder, he said. "I didn't know I had it until I attempted a suicide attempt after the undercover years were over with. So at that time I was bi-polar which really leaves you psychotic and dilusional and I was believing that I could survive it but it was definitely a dilusion."
        
While in prison, Whitacre accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. While he worried about his family and future, he took his burdens before the Lord.

"That's when the holy spirit filled my heart and I was reading the Bible, and I was reading it and reading it, and thats when I really learned the difference between saying you're a Christian and really being one because thats when I was really redeemed," he said. "And the Holy Spirit filled my heart and at that point I had peace and contentment. And that was in June of 1998 which was four months after I got into prison, and I did the rest of that eight years with peace and contentment."

And it is almost a Hollywood ending for this story. Whitacre's family stayed together and he found another good job after getting out of prison.
     
For anyone in corporate America facing a choice like this, he gives words of wisdom.

"Always do the right thing, always do the right thing," he said.

Whitacre says short term gain, when it's unethical or illegal, is never worth the long-term consequences.

*Original broadcast Sept. 21, 2009.         

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