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The Informant: On Women
 

EXCERPTS FROM THE INFORMANT: A True Story by Kurt Eichenwald

The FBI tapes afforded an opportunity to hear how senior officers of a Fortune 500 company characterize their attitudes towards women in the workplace – indelible evidence of the challenges still facing women today. All names of women mentioned have been changed to protect their privacy. A warning: the material in these sections is extremely offensive. Do not read this if that bothers you.
 

Whitacre and Andreas were alone, letting their hair down in Mick’s office. The only sound was the air pump in Andreas’s aquarium. It was 4:40 the same day, and Mick had just called Whitacre again, seeking more information about the Japanese. Clearly, Mick understood that they were at a make-or-break point. The options were either price war or profits.

Mick went back and forth on how he wanted to handle the situation. Lying was a good option if the competitors refused to deal. But if they would talk, well, that was different. In a way, Andreas relished his position. The Asians had all been together, fixing prices before ADM even came on the scene. Then, ADM started banging on the door, demanding to be part of the club. When no one answered, ADM drove down prices. The company’s executives had made it clear that they could not be ignored.

Andreas leaned back in his chair. Now was the time to be quiet in the marketplace, he said. If demand fell, ADM would cut production.

"Tell ’em we’re gonna go down with the market," Andreas said. "But we’re not gonna stand for any poaching or anything."

ADM wasn’t about to cut back if competitors started stealing customers. If they did, Andreas said, the competitors should just be told that any business ADM lost would be taken back when prices went higher.

"I don’t think they’ll try to screw with us, do you?" Andreas asked.

"No, I don’t think so," Whitacre said.

"I mean, that takes balls."

"There’s definitely a trust factor here, though," Whitacre said.

Andreas coughed. "I know."

"I mean, Terry scared ’em shitless."

"That’s just like Ikeda," Andreas said, smiling. "Terry’s our Ikeda."

Whitacre laughed. "Terry did what we needed done at the time."

"Yeah," Andreas said, leaning forward on his chair, "and Ikeda probably went back and said, ‘I told those sons of bitches they’re cutting back to half where they are or else.’ And Yamada’s saying to himself, ‘Or else what, you dumb motherfucker?’"

Yamada had to know, Andreas reasoned, that a confrontational approach wouldn’t work. ADM had crashed lysine prices before, and if the company didn’t get its way, they could be crashed again.

"Let’s face it," he said, "our track record is good."

"We drove it to sixty cents three times."

"Yeah, that’s right. Third time is a charm."

Andreas moved to the edge of his chair. "I would enjoy havin’ that meeting with Yamada."

Whitacre snapped to attention.

"You would?" he asked. "I think it’s gonna be a necessity in the long run."

"I’d like to do it myself."

Whitacre shrugged and agreed.

"Just him and me alone in a room," Andreas said. "Just sit down and say, ‘I’ve got stockholders.’"

"Did you want me to suggest that?" Whitacre asked. "Ikeda acts like he’s gonna be there."

"We can do that at the last second."

Maybe, Whitacre suggested, it would be better to meet together for a while, and then Andreas could be alone with Yamada. That way, everyone would be happy.

Andreas nodded. "Probably better to sit and listen to their bullshit first," he said.

"Yeah."

"And then sit alone and say, ‘Well, here we are. These guys are fighting, having a lot of fun cutting each other’s throats, and you and I are losin’ all the money. So maybe we oughta come to an agreement.’"

Whitacre laughed. "Yeah."

"Put me with him alone," Andreas said again. "I can talk a lot more freely."

"Yeah."

Andreas managed a tight smile. "Ikeda’s probably wearing a wire on us," he said. "Under his jacket."

Whitacre blinked and laughed. The tape recorder running under his jacket suddenly felt very big.

"He’s probably tapin’ it that way so he can translate and then report it to the Japanese," Whitacre said, still laughing. He was making little sense; he wanted to change the subject.

"Okay, well, I appreciate everything you done," Whitacre continued, his grammar getting worse as his tension increased. "I definitely, definitely enjoyin’ the hell out of it and we’re gonna get there. We really are. It’s not where citric is today, I’ll be perfectly honest with you."

"No, no, I know."

Talking about citric reminded Andreas of something. He wanted to promote Barrie Cox to president of the citric group. That would open up the possibility for other promotions in the division.

"I want him to find out whether that means we could make that girl in there a vice president, and maybe the one in Canada that’s supposed to be so good-lookin’," he said.

"Yeah."

"I may do that before the board meeting."

Whitacre leaned in; there was a woman in his division named Kathy who should be promoted as well. She was dedicated, a real career woman.

"I told Dad what I felt we should do is get an all-female sales force," Andreas said. "We’ll put like Debbie out there in charge of the West Coast. You know, there’d be more partyin’ once a year."

Whitacre laughed.

"He says, ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s great. I’ll come to the party,’" Andreas said, clearing his throat. "He wouldn’t care if he gets sued. Shit, he’s seventy-five years old."

Whitacre again pushed Kathy; she was just as good as Anna, the woman in citric. Andreas said he wasn’t trying to help Anna. In fact, he said, Anna scared him. She had once pressed him with questions at a meeting, Andreas explained, asking him what he considered ADM’s obligation to the community to be.

"And I said, ‘Well, our obligation is to provide good-paying jobs to hardworking people.’"

Whitacre fiddled with his tie.

"She said, ‘Well, that doesn’t seem like enough,"’ Andreas continued. "She’s talking about day care centers, and I thought, ‘Fuck this.’"

"Yeah, she’s a women’s libber," Whitacre said. "One’s gotta be careful."

Maybe, Andreas suggested, he should promote a couple of women to vice president and make another woman president of the western department.

"What the fuck do I care?" he shrugged.

"Yeah, just a title, just a title," Whitacre said. "Don’t mean anything. At least to the outside, it does mean something."

"Yeah," Andreas said, nodding.

***

At 2:00 the next day, Whitacre picked up the Ikeda fax and scanned it quickly. Yamada was willing to meet with Andreas and Whitacre in Los Angeles on either October 25 or 26. A site for the meeting could be chosen when the date was set.

Whitacre walked down to Mick Andreas’s office. He flicked on the recorder in his pocket.

"Mick?" he said at the office doorway. "You got a quick minute?"

Andreas looked up from his desk.

"Yep."

Whitacre walked in, holding out the fax.

"Ikeda’s working quick for us," he said. "Yamada wants to meet in L.A. the week after next."

"No kidding?"

"Told me on the phone that he’s coming with him."

"Ikeda’s coming just for that?"

As Whitacre described the details, Andreas checked his schedule and saw he was free on the twenty-fifth. Whitacre said he would go make a copy of the Ikeda letter for Mick. The original, he was thinking, needed to go to the FBI.

When Whitacre returned, Andreas discussed the meeting arrangements. Who did they know in L.A. who might have ideas? Whitacre mentioned a former ADM employee named Tina, who had moved to southern California.

"She’s gettin’ married," Whitacre said.

"Well, what a waste," Andreas said.

Andreas checked with the ADM pilots; the flight to Los Angeles would take just over four hours. He suggested flying out at seven o’clock in the morning, Decatur time, for a nine o’clock Los Angeles meeting. They could be home by seven o’clock that same night. Whitacre said he would make the arrangements.

Since he had Andreas’s attention, Whitacre decided to check on the promotion for Kathy, the woman in his division. He asked what had happened with Anna. Andreas said that her boss opposed promoting her.

"He says she wants so much," Andreas explained. "She’ll say, ‘Well, do I get a raise? Do I get a car? Do I get this? Do I get that?"’

Whitacre saw an opening. "Kathy’s not that way," he said. "Kathy wouldn’t ask for any of that."

"Well, see..."

"Kathy would appreciate what she’s got," Whitacre said. "Anna is a little bit different."

"Yeah, she’s a lot more aggressive."

Whitacre coughed.

"Oughta be a fantastic fuck," Andreas said, smiling. "But I think she’d be trouble with a capital don’t you?"

"Yeah," Whitacre said. Kathy wouldn’t be a problem, he added. She’d take what ADM gave her without complaint.

They spoke for another moment about promoting women. Andreas leaned back in his chair, smiling.

"So, my Tina is getting married," he said, referring to the woman who had moved to southern California.

"Yeah," Whitacre said. "Two or three weekends from now."

"That won’t last for very long, do you think?"

"No."

She’s kind of a dodo-head, you know?" Andreas said. "She’ll be back. I just hope she doesn’t get pregnant. Fuck up her body."

"Yeah."

"Nice body," Andreas said. "It’d ruin her tits. She’s got the greatest tits in the world."

Andreas smiled broadly. "In the world."

***

At the airport, the three climbed into Whitacre’s car for the drive to the office. From the backseat, Wilson stared at Whitacre’s head. It looked funny.

"Whitacre, what are you doing?" Wilson asked. Whitacre’s hair looked like it was two-toned, he said. Was he dying it?

"Kinda bleaches a little bit," Whitacre said. "Especially in the summertime."

"Has Sue told you it looks better that way?" Wilson asked, referring to a woman at the office. "Or what’s the deal?"

"Sue likes that," Whitacre said.

Andreas smiled, half raising a hand. "I’m gonna ask you a few questions about that," he said. "Sue is getting married, right?"

Yes, Whitacre said. Sue was getting married and moving to Canada.

"What else is new around the office?" Andreas asked.

"Amy’s divorced," Wilson said.

Whitacre asked if they were talking about the same Amy who used to spend time with another senior ADM executive.

"He used to fuck her, but he doesn’t anymore," Andreas said. "She loves to give head and fuck."

Whitacre looked in the rearview mirror. "Is she really getting a divorce, Terry?"

"Yeah," Wilson said. "I’ve been tryin’ to tell her how to—"

"How to give blow jobs?" Andreas interrupted.

"No," Wilson answered, smiling. "How to take care of the kids so she doesn’t have any problems."

Andreas looked into the backseat.

"How about that little fat one over there by you?" he said.

"Anna?" Wilson asked.

"No, no. Yeah, Anna, too. Who’s fuckin’ Anna now?"

Wilson shook his head. "I don’t know who’s fucking Anna."

"You think she’s pretty much of a rounder?" Andreas asked.

Whitacre smiled. "She’s very, very, very friendly. I think she’s very bored with her life here. I don’t mean ADM, either; I’m talkin’ after-ADM life."

"So," Andreas said, "she likes to just go out and fuck?"

A minute later, the men brought up another woman at the company. Andreas shot Whitacre a look.

"I know you fucked her a few times," he said.

"No, no," Whitacre replied.

Andreas smiled. "You look at her up close, she is not that attractive."

"No," Wilson said. "But she is built."

"I don’t like her, though," Andreas said. "She’s so masculine or something."

Wilson sat up. "She’s got lips, look like a black. Sensual. You know they’d fit right around."

Whitacre coughed. He was painfully aware that this conversation was being taped.

"Her makeup disguises what she really looks like," Andreas said. "She’s got kind of a flat face and oval eyes."

Wilson coughed. "I thought she might be somewhat Hispanic."

"Could be Hispanic," Andreas said.

"Latin," said Whitacre.

"She’s got big lips," Wilson repeated. "Like a black."

Andreas smiled. "She’d give great head."

He turned to Whitacre, asking to hear about some of the new women at work. Whitacre mentioned a woman who had recently joined ADM.

"You were trying to get in her pants, and she wouldn’t talk to you," said Andreas.

"She’s just a quiet gal," Whitacre said.

"Sort of a little meek-lookin’ gal," Andreas added.

"Yeah," Whitacre said. "But she looks like she’s an—"

"Looks like a whore," Andreas interrupted. "Looks like a fuckin’ whore."

Whitacre pulled into ADM, circling the car around to the parking garage. In an instant, the three executives—the vice-chairman and two division presidents of a Fortune 500 company—walked back into the corporate headquarters, smiling and politely bidding hello to some of the female employees they had just been tearing apart so venomously.

***

Copyright 2000 by Kurt Eichenwald. From the book The Informant, published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.

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