Three former high-ranking officials at agricultural giant Archer Daniels Midland Inc., including the son of former chairman Dwayne O. Andreas, were sentenced to prison terms yesterday for their roles in a global price-fixing conspiracy.
Former vice chairman Michael D. Andreas, who once was expected to succeed his father as head of the company, and Terrance Wilson, a retired division chief, were sentenced to two-year prison terms and fined $350,000 each by a federal judge in Chicago.
Mark Whitacre, who acted as a mole for the FBI and taped hundreds of hours of conversations while employed by ADM, was sentenced to 30 months in prison. He already is serving a nine-year prison sentence in Edgefield, S.C., for embezzling $9 million from the company. Twenty months of his sentence for price-fixing will be served after he finishes his sentence for embezzlement.
Justice Department officials, who conducted a years-long investigation of price-fixing at ADM, said they were pleased by the sentences. Government lawyers had proposed that U.S. District Judge Blanche M. Manning give Wilson and Andreas the maximum prison sentences of three years. Andreas, they said, should pay a fine of $25 million. But Manning rejected that request.
Not present in the Chicago courtroom was Dwayne Andreas, 81, long known for contributing to both Republican and Democratic political campaigns and for meeting with leaders around the world while he was building ADM into a global powerhouse. During his tenure, ADM became known as the "supermarket to the world."
Earlier this year, the senior Andreas stepped down as chairman in favor of his nephew, Allen Andreas. The elder Andreas still serves on the board of the company, which is based in Decatur, Ill.
The sentencing comes seven years after the beginning of a criminal plan to fix prices of lysine, a feed additive used by farmers to make chickens and pigs grow faster. The conspiracy affected thousands of consumers and more than $1 billion in sales of lysine worldwide, according to the government.
Government and defense lawyers argued for more than five hours about departures from the sentencing guidelines for the men. Wilson's attorneys said the 61-year-old retired executive was too ill to serve jail time and called for home detention. His wife, Mary Jo Wilson, was the only witness called at the sentencing hearing.
Although the government had argued that 50-year-old Michael Andreas, known as "Mick," was the ringleader and had shown "appalling arrogance and an obstinate refusal to accept the jury's verdict," Manning rejected their call for a prison sentence of 36 months.
In 1996, ADM agreed to pay $100 million, then the largest antitrust fine in U.S. history, after pleading guilty to fixing the prices of lysine and citric acid, which is also used in food production.
ADM also paid $25 million in a civil lawsuit brought by users of citric acid and an undisclosed amount to settle a similar suit brought by consumers of lysine. The company still faces a lawsuit over another additive -- high-fructose corn syrup, the sweetener used in many soft drinks -- that lawyers say could be its most expensive civil suit so far.
The lysine scheme was implemented by top ADM officials and their Japanese counterparts in meetings that took place in the United States, France, Japan, Mexico and Canada, according to testimony at the trial last year.
During some of those meetings, Whitacre, who headed the division that made lysine and became an FBI informant, taped more than 200 hours of conversations using James Bond-like recorders and videocameras hidden in briefcases and lampshades.
But at the same time he was spying on ADM for the government, Whitacre, at first portrayed as an honest, all-American whistleblower, was embezzling $9 million that wound up in secret foreign accounts. He was not in the courtroom yesterday and was sentenced by telephone.
"I feel the Justice Department would have had no case without me," said Whitacre, 42, whose voice was piped into the courtroom via a speakerphone. "I risked my life and my career for them."
The government, embarrassed that its mole also was a thief, did not make a recommendation on the sentencing of Whitacre. He was sentenced for his role in the price-fixing conspiracy before the time he began working for the FBI.
CAPTION: Former ADM executives, from left, Michael D. Andreas, Terrance Wilson and Mark Whitacre were sentenced to prison.