martes, mayo 25, 2010

In 1996 Archer Daniels Midland was neck deep in one of the largest corporate crimes in history. When Mark Whitacre, a rising star at the agri-business giant, turned FBI whistle blower, he brought down top ADM execs, but also exposed his own crime: skimming millions from his employer. In their 2009 film "The Informant!" acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh and actor Matt Damon have created a dark comedy of corporate greed and personal foibles. It carries audiences on a roller coaster-ride exploration of big money and bad ethics at a major multinational corporation. This web site - brought to you by CorpWatch and - fills in the real events and people behind "The Informant!". By taking a ride through ADM's past and present, you'll gain insights into the vast underbelly of shady practices that corporations don't want you to see.

In 1996, agribusiness giant ADM received national attention when it was caught breaking federal antitrust laws and was prosecuted for fixing prices and allocating sales of lysine, an amino acid animal feed additive. The company agreed to pay a $100 million fine -- the largest fine of its kind in history -- and a few top executives eventually went to jail. The story was later captured by New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald in his book, "The Informant" (2000), which was adapted for the 2009 film of the same name, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Matt Damon.

Since the late 1990s, a lot has changed at ADM. The Andreas family has ceded managerial control of the company, and no longer sits on the board. The company is still a major grain processor, but its business strategy has evolved from bulk grain processing to a large investment in various grain-related products, including ethanol and other biofuels; various health and nutrition-related products, including veggie burgers and soy milk; and other products designed to be more ecologically compatible, such as biodegradable plastics.

Image: ADM Mill. Tobias Higbie.

Farm groups, consumers, and environmental and human rights advocates cite ADM as one example of many in the ongoing debate over increased multinational corporate control over agribusiness and the food supply, while new issues related to ADM's expanding business have been raised, including the promotion of genetically modified crops and the impacts of ethanol.

The company remains one of the largest processors of soybeans, corn, wheat and cocoa, and is still one of the largest manufacturers of sweeteners and other food processing ingredients. Nearly half of its $44 billion in global sales during 2006/7 came from making animal feed, vegetable oils and emulsifiers from oilseeds and soya lecithin.

To learn how ADM has evolved since the late 1990s, check out this chronology of key events in ADM's recent history.

For an extended and updated portrait of the company, see the "Archer Daniels Midland" profile on

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