The Informant!

It’s not often that I hear about a new Hollywood movie based on the facts of a case that I first encountered while clerking, but The Informant!, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Matt Damon, is just such a film. It tells the story of Mark Whitacre, a central actor in a case decided while I was clerking for my judge on the Seventh Circuit. Whitacre served as the key informant in a successful FBI investigation into price-fixing charges against Archer Daniels Midland Co. that sent top executives to prison. As my co-clerk Kevin Metz observed, the case featured the type of direct evidence of an agreement to fix prices that antitrust professors explain is almost never available in antitrust prosecution. Whitacre secretly recorded many hours of conversations with co-conspirators in the lysine industry over three years, all while bragging carelessly to others about his role as an FBI informant and embezzling millions from ADM under the FBI’s nose. During my clerkship year, we worked on a number of memorable cases, but United States v. Andreas probably featured the most colorful facts. Whitacre was a very odd and unpredictable personality who suffered from bipolar disorder, which Matt Damon plays up for comic effect in the movie.

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4 Responses

  1. Sean says:

    This American Life did an hour-long report on on this a few years ago, most of it featuring extended interviews with Whitacre. It was a fascinating show, mostly because of Whitecre’s personality and moral ambiguity. I can’t wait to see this movie.

  2. Syd Henderson says:

    The title is actually “The Informant!” with the exclamation point intending to add to the comic effect.

  3. Michael Kang says:

    Syd,

    Good point! I’ve corrected the post to include the exclamation point in the title. Thanks.

  4. Paul Horwitz says:

    I thought the exclamation point meant it was a musical, a la Oliver! My interest in the movie will diminish dramatically if it’s not a musical.