Executive Turned Whistleblower

The Story Re-told at the Williamson County Leadership Prayer Breakfast

Encouraging morality and ethics in leaders while emphasizing the power of prayer have been the goals of the Williamson County Leadership Prayer Breakfast since it began in 2018. “Every decision they make affects all the citizens of the county,” event chairman Chris Logue says. “Anytime we can remind them of why they’re there, and who they’re leading for, God or themselves, we see that as a major win.”

Mark Whitacre learned his lesson the hard way after becoming involved in the largest price-fixing scheme in U.S. history and ultimately finding faith and the true meaning of leadership
in prison. 

His journey from “selfish leadership to servant leadership,” as he described it at this year’s prayer breakfast at the Main Street Baptist Center in March, began at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in 1989, when he became divisional president of the biotech division and corporate vice president of ADM at 32 years old. “I lived in a mansion. I had my own jet. I was making millions of dollars. I had an eight-car garage. I was so selfish and full of myself,” he said at the breakfast that drew 350 business and government leaders like Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan, Judge Donna King, and Round Rock Police Chief Allen Banks.

Two years after working at the food production giant and Fortune 500 company, he was introduced to “how ADM does business,” which involved meeting with competitors and fixing prices for ingredients like lysine and high fructose corn syrup. “That’s fraud. That’s illegal,” he told the vice chair, who replied, “Mark, the laws are from the 1800s. Those politicians know nothing about business. In a commodity business, that’s what you have to do.”

Having just received a bonus and told he was being trained to take over as president one day, Mark didn’t feel like he was in a position to walk away from this “international cartel.” His wife, Ginger, felt differently. She warned that if he didn’t turn himself in to the FBI, she would.

“I could go to prison. The CEO is best friends with Clinton. They will destroy us,” he said.

“My CEO is bigger than your CEO. My CEO is Jesus.”

Mrs. Mark Whitacre

A meeting with the FBI the next day turned into three years of Mark wearing a wire to price-fixing meetings around the world. Compared to wearing a wire, which he calls the toughest three years of his life, “Prison was a cakewalk.” While he was promised full immunity by the FBI, fear of the future drove Mark to write company checks for $9 million to himself the day ADM found out he was an informant, leading to an eight-and-a-half year prison sentence. “I thought my life was ending at age 40,” he said.

Three months into his sentence, Mark surrendered his life to Jesus and began discipling other inmates, calling those eight years the most rewarding ones of his life. “I became a free man in prison. That life of greed and materialism and power—that was my prison before I ever entered prison.”

Today, 32 years later, Mark now works as executive director of Coca-Cola Consolidated while continuing to publicly share his story of redemption and second chances. He remains grateful for his wife and three kids as well as his faith that carried him through the experience that shaped him into the servant leader he is today. “Looking back, I thank God for this journey of brokenness. Without brokenness, I wouldn’t have known God today.”

The Hollywood Version

Matt Damon played Mark Whitacre in the 2009 “The Informant”, a movie that both Mark and the FBI disliked because they felt it portrayed the experience as a comedy. Mark’s story returned to the screen the next year in the Discovery Channel documentary, “Undercover: Double Life”.

The Prayer Breakfast

In 2018, Sun City’s Jerry Geiger who founded the Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast, now called the Williamson County Leadership Breakfast, described the Georgetown event as an outreach to our community and Williamson County leadership to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan reflected on our community-oriented Williamson County, “It’s been some of the toughest times we’ve ever been a part of. Going through the last week and seeing our community come together, it’s a special place we live in because we do come together. If you want to be a leader, serve others.”

Jerry added a reminder to readers that the National Day of Prayer is May 5 and he encourages citizens to unite in prayer for our nation.