The public is invited to join a March 30 online conversation with Mark Whitacre, Ph.D., the business executive whose work with the FBI in the 1990s during the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) scandal provided the inspiration for the Matt Damon movie “The Informant.”
The event, which is free, begins at 12:30 p.m. The discussion is being held in conjunction with Muskegon Community College Instructor Christopher VanOosterhout’s Introduction to Business class. For several years, he has used Whitacre’s story to discuss business ethics and basic business economics. Students from across several disciplines will be participating.
During the conversation, VanOosterhout will ask Whitacre to address several topics, including whistleblowers in the workplace, free markets and price fixing, anti-trust laws and ethical business leadership.
Drawing from his unique history, Whitacre provides one-of-a-kind insight into corporate ethics, corporate greed, and the warning signs of a flawed corporate leadership.
After simultaneously completing B.S. and M.S. degrees at Ohio State University, Whitacre earned his Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry from Cornell University. He then worked for multiple Fortune 500 companies before joining ADM at age 32 as the president of the BioProducts. In just six years, their fermentation complex became one of the largest in the world. At age 35, he became a Corporate Vice President of ADM and was the leading candidate to become the next company president.
From 1992-95, Whitacre acted as a cooperating witness for the FBI, which was investigating ADM for price fixing. In the late 1990s Whitacre was sentenced to nine years in federal prison for embezzling $9.5 million from ADM at the same time he was assisting the federal price-fixing investigation
ADM investigated Whitacre’s activities and, upon discovering suspicious activity, requested the FBI investigate Whitacre for embezzlement. As a result of $9.5 million in various frauds, Whitacre lost his whistleblower’s immunity, and consequently spent eight and a half years in federal prison. He was released in December 2006.
Whitacre is an Executive Director at Coca Cola Consolidated, Inc., the largest bottler of Coca-Cola products in the United States. He has also recently served as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Science Officer at Cypress Systems, Inc., a California biotechnology company. Cypress System is best known for its research, in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), regarding the use of selenium supplementation for the prevention of a variety of cancers.