'The Informant' Sheds Light on Historic Whistleblowers

Matt Damon helps to examine the political landscape for whistleblowers.

ByABC News
September 2, 2009, 6:19 PM

Sept. 18, 2009— -- Matt Damon's portrayal of doughy, kvetchy Mark Whitacre in the new dark comedy "The Informant," directed by Steven Soderbergh and produced by George Clooney, is a reminder that real-life whistle-blowers strike a unique profile in courage.

Whether uncovering fraud in corporate America, as Damon's character does in the new film, or in government, as former FBI agent Coleen Rowley tried to do in the weeks before Sept. 11, whistle-blowers may ultimately be heroes, but they are also frequent targets for retaliation.

"The Informant," which opens Friday, is based on a true story of the highest-ranking corporate whistle-blower in U.S. history, Mark Whitacre, who exposed price fixing at Archer Daniels Midland. For nearly three years, he worked as an FBI informant, helping to uncover a worldwide scheme to fix prices of the feed additive lysine. Wearing a wire, Whitacre recorded high-level executives as well as ADM's competitors to reveal a conspiracy.

But often, the attempts to be a whistle-blower don't work -- at least not in time.