An FBI agent whose work on a major price-fixing case was portrayed in a recent movie is scheduled to speak at Kansas University on Tuesday.
Robert Herndon is an agent with the White Collar Crime Squad in the Kansas City FBI Field Office. His work on price-fixing allegations at the Decatur, Ill.-based company Archer Daniels Midland became a book and later a movie, both called “The Informant!”
In the case, Mark Whitacre, an ADM executive, stepped forward to accuse the company of price-fixing and became involved in years of secret recordings for the FBI.
Later, however, the FBI learned that Whitacre — played by Matt Damon in the film — had been stealing money from the company.
“We thought we had our white knight,” someone who was interested in doing the right things for the right reasons, Herndon said.
But then they found that Whitacre had stolen more than $9.5 million from the company.
“There went our white knight,” he said.
Herndon is portrayed in the film by comedic actor Joel McHale, who is host of the E! television network’s “The Soup” and stars in the NBC sitcom “Community.” Herndon said he was a little concerned about how McHale might portray a serious FBI agent — especially after his wife showed him a picture of McHale dressed in women’s clothing.
But Herndon’s family still keeps in touch with McHale, who Herndon said was respectful of the FBI in his portrayal.
“I will say in the end, I’m very proud he was selected,” Herndon said.
Herndon, who graduated from the KU School of Business with degrees in business administration and accounting, said he had wanted to be an FBI agent since he was a boy growing up in Overland Park.
He now works in Kansas City, and has worked on other high-profile cases, including an investigation of Robert Courtney, a pharmacist in the Kansas City area who diluted chemotherapy drugs intended for cancer patients.
Herndon is to deliver the KU School of Business Anderson Chandler Lecture at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Lied Center. The speech, “CLuEs from the Convicts: Life Lessons on Character, Leadership and Ethics From the Files of the FBI,” is free and open to the public.
His speech will draw on lessons from “The Informant!” along with other cases he has worked. He said that white-collar criminals often realize life’s lessons too late, and many break down and cry when they’ve been confronted with their lies.
“That’s when they realize the important things in life,” he said.
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