Mark Whitacre was the former Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) executive who blew the whistle on the international lysine price-fixing conspiracy of the early 1990’s. He is the highest ranking Fortune 500 executive to become an FBI whistleblower. Whitacre’s actions launched the age of international price-fixing prosecutions that dominate cartel enforcement to this day. Mr. Whitacre has written an essay, “When Good Leaders Lose Their Way,” 45 Loy. U. Chi. L.J. 525 (2014), that recounts how he became involved in the conspiracy; why he decided to confess to the FBI; his two year saga as an FBI uncover operative across the globe; his decision to embezzle $9.5 million from ADM (his “self-help” severance pay); his resulting ten-year prison sentence; and how he landed on his feet today as the COO of a biotech company with his family intact. Whitacre’s journey illustrates how a serious antitrust and ethics compliance program may have prevented a journey of misery for him and his company.
Whitacre got involved in the lysine cartel because of tunnel vision focus on short-term profit driven by the lure of stock options and other financial benefits and trappings of life at the top. His wife, who noticed the changes in Whitacre and his material focus, became the impetus for him to turn himself in to the FBI. For two years Whitacre reported to work as a loyal executive of ADM, all the while equipped with recording devices to “get the goods” on his superiors and co-workers. By his account, after two years of this double life he made some extraordinarily bad decisions to try secure his financial future. He embezzled almost $10 million from ADM and was caught. He compounded this mistake by turning down what his lawyer called the “deal of a lifetime” and a possible 6 month sentence, which was supported by FBI agents with whom he had worked. He ended up serving 8 years and 8 months in federal prison. Upon his release, however, he has been able to resume a successful career as the CEO of a biotech company fueled by an entirely new set of principles. Whitacre has his own web page, Website of Mark Whitacre http://www.markwhitacre.com/career.html. This web site contains, among other things, interviews of FBI agents who handled Whitacre during his two years of undercover activity. To read more about the actual workings of the lysine cartel, see: “The Fly On The Wall Has Been Bugged– Catching An International Cartel In The Act,” speech by Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Enforcement, Antitrust Division, May 15, 2001. http://www.justice.gov/atr/public/speeches/8280.pdf. Copies of the lysine tapes and transcripts are available at no charge by mailing or faxing (202/616-4529) your request to the United States Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, Freedom of Information Act Unit, Liberty Square Building, 450 Fifth Street, NW, Suite 3200, Washington, 20530
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