The Informant! is about Mark Whitacre (Damon), a rising star at Decatur, Illinois based Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in the early 1990s who wound up blowing the whistle on the company’s price-fixing tactics, only after his wife forced him to. Matt Damon portrays the bipolarwhistleblower dubbed "The wacky little brother of Erin Brockovich". In the film, Whitacre displays bizarre behavior including recklessness and grandiosity.
One night in early November 1992, the high-ranking ADM executive confessed to FBI agent Brian Shepard (Bakula), present only to install a wire tap on Whitacre's phone, that ADM executives—including Whitacre himself—had routinely met with competitors to fix the price of lysine, an additive used in the commercial livestock industry. As the highest-ranked executive to ever turn whistleblower in US history, Whitacre secretly gathered hundreds of hours of video and audio over several years to present to the FBI. He assisted in gathering evidence by clandestinely taping the company’s activity in business meetings at various locations around the globe such as Tokyo, Paris, Mexico City, and Hong Kong, eventually collecting enough evidence of collaboration and conspiracy to warrant a raid.
Whitacre’s good deed dovetails with his own major infractions and struggle with bipolar disorder. The film focuses on Whitacre's meltdown resulting from the pressures of wearing a wire and organizing surveillance for the FBI for three years, instigated by Whitacre's reaction, in increasingly manic overlays, to various trivial magazine articles he reads. In a stunning turn of events immediately following the covert portion of the case, headlines around the world reported that the whistleblower defrauded $9 million from his own company at the same period of time he was secretly working for the FBI and taping his co-workers, while simultaneously hoping to be elected as CEO following the arrest and conviction of the remaining upper management members. After being confronted with evidence of his fraud, Whitacre's claims in his defense begin to spiral out of control, including an accusation of assault and battery against Agent Shepard. Because of this major infraction and Whitacre’s bizarre behavior, he was sentenced to a prison term three times longer than the white-collar criminals he helped to nab. Agent Herndon (Joel McHale) visits Whitacre while in prison in order to support him for a presidential pardon.