Sept. 5, 2023

Truth Transforms - Against All Odds - Courage In The Workplace Leads To Positive Results – with Mark & Ginger Whitacre – [Ep.184]

Truth Transforms - Against All Odds - Courage In The Workplace Leads To Positive Results – with Mark & Ginger Whitacre – [Ep.184]

Have you wondered what you would do if asked to commit a crime in your workplace? Could you be a whistleblower? The choice is not always easy, and fear may prevent acting with integrity. Linda’s guests, Mark & Ginger Whitacre, chose truth and...

Have you wondered what you would do if asked to commit a crime in your workplace? Could you be a whistleblower? The choice is not always easy, and fear may prevent acting with integrity. Linda’s guests, Mark & Ginger Whitacre, chose truth and integrity over money and power, which led to Mark becoming an FBI informant who wore a wire for over three years to expose fraud and corruption in one of America’s largest corporations. As a result, they faced hurdles and hard times, but their courage to tell the truth changed government policies, business protocols, improved the lives of millions of people, and changed the course of history. Mark now serves as vice-president of Culture and Care and executive director of the t-Factor Initiative at Coca Cola Consolidated, but the path to that role was not easy. This episode will keep you on the edge of your seat and will inspire you to be courageous when faced with life-changing decisions in your own workplace or personal life.

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Linda J. Hansen:  Welcome. Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the Prosperity 101 Breakroom Economics Podcast. My name is Linda J. Hansen, your host and the author of Prosperity 101- Job Security Through Business Prosperity: The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck, and the creator of the Breakroom Economics Online course, the book, the course and the entire podcast library can be found on Prosperity101.Com. I seek to connect boardroom to break room and policy to paycheck by empowering and encouraging employers to educate employees about the public policy issues that affect their jobs. My goal is to help people understand the foundations of prosperity, the policies of prosperity, and how to protect their prosperity by becoming informed, involved, and impactful. I believe this will lead to greater employee loyalty, engagement and retention, and to an increased awareness of the blessings and responsibilities of living in a free society. Listen each week to hear from exciting guests and be sure to visit Prosperity 101.Com.

Thank you so much for joining with me today. In a recent episode number 181, I interviewed Mark Whitacre, vice president of Culture and Care, and the executive director of the T Factor Initiative at Coca Cola Consolidated. Coca Cola Consolidated, not to be confused with coca Cola Company in Atlanta, is a publicly traded, faith based company, and Mark oversees the corporate culture and the implementation of the Tea Factor Initiative. In that episode, I referenced the journey that led Mark to be in this position and the trials he and his family faced in previous years. However, we did not go deeply into their story. I promised listeners I would bring Mark and his wife Ginger onto the podcast to share the professional and personal journey that led them to now. No matter who you are, no matter your job or calling in life, this episode will keep you on the edge of your seat and will inspire you to be courageous when faced with life changing decisions. You may have read the book Against All Odds how the Informant and His Family Turned Defeat Into Triumph. Or you may have seen the documentary titled Undercover operation Harvest King. You may have even seen the movie The Informant, which starred Matt Damon and was based on Mark and Ginger's story. Although as predictable for Hollywood, it was not done as factually as the documentary or the book. In any case, their story is incredible and one that changed the rules of business and the lives of millions of people through the simple act of telling the truth. Welcome, Mark and Ginger. It's such an honor and blessing to interview you both.

Mark Whitacre: Great to be great to be here.

Ginger Whitacre: Thank you for having us.

Linda J. Hansen: It's just such a pleasure. And as I've gotten to know Mark and heard more about you, Ginger, I just couldn't wait to interview you and get to know you both and tell your story. But Mark, I know we'll just do a little bit of a recap for people who may have missed the first episode, just a brief recap of what the T Factor Initiative is, and then we can move into the journey that brought you to this point.

Mark Whitacre: Yeah, we're Coca Cola Consolidated, largest bottler in America, 104 bottling plants and 17,000 employees. And we're a publicly traded, faith based company. Our official Purpose statement, our company and think about this. This is a publicly traded company on the Nasdaq. And our Purpose statement is our official Purpose Statement is to honor God and all we do by serving others, pursuing excellence, and growing profitably. But who has a Purpose statement to honor God and all we do in any large company not long publicly traded.

And then at T Factor, we kind of share with the world how we do that. It's easy to say, but how we have a chaplain at every plant, 104 plant sites, how we have dozens of prayer groups and Bible study at all of these sites, and how it's completely transformed our company to where our retention rates have changed, our turnover is lower, our engagement is high. I mean, even non-Christians, during our engagement surveys that we do each September, they say, Boy, I'm not a Christian, but I love this company. I love having a supervisor that listens well, that cares about me, that has empathy for my family. And so, I mean, it's just a great culture. And then we look at the number of salvations. We had 550 salvation, 557 in 2022, 644. That's almost 600 salvations a year. We're averaging 50 salvations a month. We pray that we hire non Christians in the group that we're hiring right now because we feel it's going to be a great way for them to get exposed to God by joining our company.

Linda J. Hansen: Well, it's just so amazing. And listeners, I do encourage you. Go back and listen to episode 181 and you'll hear more of the story of Coca Cola Consolidated and the T Factor Initiative. And when you treat employees as you'd like to be treated, amazing concept. It really helps to create a transformational culture in the workplace, which can help to transform individuals lives. So it's just incredible. And we thank you so much for the example that you set there and how you share that with others. So I know that not only does it help every workplace, it helps all the families impacted by those workplaces, but then that helps the nation and it helps the world. So it just spreads out, and it's beautiful. But your professional life was not always involved with a company that had such high values and that led you on this journey that I'd like to discuss today. So first I'd like to just kind of introduce Ginger a little bit. And when you met and were married, briefly, just tell the story of how you began and then what led you to becoming the informant. So either of you could go first there. So ginger. Go ahead.

Ginger Whitacre: Mark and I met, actually knew each other in junior high, but actually met each other and started dating when we were in high school. Mark is one year older than I am, so we went to high school together, all of our proms together, college together. So we got married at a very young age. We were still in college. Mark was just finishing up in the program of a bachelor's master's program. So we were 22 and I was almost 21. So we've been married a long time, been through a lot together. But I think that helps what comes in the journey. Because we've known each other for so very long.

Mark Whitacre: We went to high state together. I was finishing the master's degree, and before I moved to New York to get a PhD in biochemistry, we said, well, let's get married. We can go to New York together. And we moved to New York together. She worked in astrophysics, where Carl Sagan worked, which is right across from where I was in biochemistry. And we were at Cornell myself as a student, her working there. And that's when we started our journey kind of early. Twenty s and young and naive, and I got caught up in the Ivy League, big time. I did.

Linda J. Hansen: Yes, you did. And it's such a great story. You started out like so many couples, idealistic, young. You had new career, you had life ahead of you. And Mark, you distinguished yourself very quickly in the professional world where opportunities came to you that were not the typical opportunities for young professionals at that time. So could you explain to the listeners the rocket ship rise to your professional career?

Mark Whitacre: Yeah. When I graduated 83 from Cornell, I was 25 years old. Ginger would have been 24. And when I graduated, the whole biotech industry was just exploding. Starting like that year before. It's when Genitech started. And it's really when pharmaceutical companies kind of became the old kind of hodgepodge companies, and it was the new biotech, and the whole biotech industry was exploding. So I couldn't have graduated from a career opportunity standpoint at a better time. There were so many opportunities and companies were coming on campus, especially Cornell was number one in biochemistry in the country, and that's why I chose it over Harvard and Yale.

They were strong in business and law, but in the science, Cornell was number one, had the most Nobel Prize winners of any university, and Dr. Wilson in physics won a Nobel Prize. One of my professors, literally when I was at Cornell, even during that time. And I can remember, too, is probably part of my downfall too, because I can remember us as PhD students talking among us and say, oh, we're going to make millions of dollars with this education, and we're going to be CEOs of some of the biggest biotech companies in the world in a short period of time by the time we're in our thirty s and I think, looking back, it was the wrong goals. I mean, I look back now and if I was telling a younger person what I would tell myself 40 years ago, because that's 41 years ago now, 66, I would tell a younger person, no, kind of be focused on how you can make the world a better place. How can I use this education to really improve people's lives and maybe resolve cancer and diabetes and cystic fibrosis and just so many things you could do and not say, well, gosh, we're going to make millions of dollars in such a short time. It was the wrong goal. And I met that goal in a very short period of time. But boy, did it have some negative results of that, right.

Linda J. Hansen: I think it's human nature that when you're in college, that's the poorest, usually the poorest time of your life. And he'd been in college for seven, eight years. So it's a dream, like, not to be able to have to pinch Penny. So it wasn't that he was in a I mean, your goal was wrong, but it was kind of a normal.

Mark Whitacre: Human yeah, I think it was the typical kind of probably in America especially, you go to college, you go to college to get the best job you can get. It was probably traditional, but I'm not sure the traditional is the right.

Linda J. Hansen: And really, so many people are financially focused instead of values focused, and it can be the wrong goal. I always tell people, money comes and money goes, and we can't take it with us when we eventually leave this. You know, it's best to focus our lives on the things that are eternal. And I know, Ginger, you started to do that. So can you tell us what changed in your life that helped you to start see things from more of an eternal perspective? Where some of the things I know mark told a story about being able to get you a fancy car. And you said, I don't think know that's being a good steward of our money.

Mark Whitacre: Red Ferrari and try to buy her a yellow.

Linda J. Hansen: Yeah.

Ginger Whitacre: I grew up in a middle class working family. Both my parents worked in factories. One for Ford, one for Procter Gamble. And my grandmother lived with us, so we didn't have a lot of extra money, anything that was frivolous. And so coming into this life that this journey where he is in this job and there's so much money. I mean, just so much money. It just seemed unnatural for me to have that kind of excessive thing. So, like, the car I had was perfectly fine I still have

Mark Whitacre: Wrangler. She had a Wrangler Jeep, and then I had it.

Ginger Whitacre: Well, I had one jeep. The Jeep. Yeah, Cherokee. But he would have all these cars. He's like, don't you want to trade in? I'm like, no, I'm fine. Even to this day. I still have an older car, which it's getting ready to be get rid of this weekend, but like in nine it still works. The air conditioner quit today and I'm like, it's gone well.

Linda J. Hansen: And I love that too, actually. When I've done things, I have often raised funds. I've never liked to be called a fundraiser because that's not my passion. But I will ask people for money to execute a strategy because I'm like, look, I want to change the world for Jesus and I want to save America, so will you help me? And I remember one time, I was getting desperate and we were speaking like I was speaking at an event. And there were all sorts of people there that had all kinds of money, and they knew that they all had many cars. They had really fancy houses, they had lots of artwork, they had vacations all the time, extra boats. I just remember looking at them and saying, how many cars do you have in your driveway and how many do you actually drive? And could you give up one to help us save this country? Could you give up one to help us save this country? And it helps to put it in perspective, but obviously, Ginger, you had begun to have that perspective. So while you were in this mindset, where were you, Mark? Because you were rising, like I said, like a rocket ship in your career and you ended up at ADM Archer Daniels Midland. And so for explain to people who don't know what that company is. I mean, we all use their products every day, but they might not know.

Mark Whitacre: I was 32, Linda, and 32 and seven years out of college. I went from vice president of a large chemical company called De Gusa, living in Frankfurt, Germany for four years to ADM to Visional, president of ADM Archer Daniels Midland, the largest food additive company in the world. It'd be difficult to buy an iced tea or a beverage or Pillsbury or Kraft or Kellogg cereal or Mars candy bar. It'd be difficult to buy a processed food and beverage that doesn't have something from ADM in it. And they were number 56 on the Fortune 570,000,000,000 in US annual revenues, 30,000 employees. I was ranked number four at age 32. Divisional president of the Biotech division, corporate vice president of the whole company. 77-year-old CEO, a 69-year-old president. And I was 32. So I just had to look ahead of me and say, they're all 30, 40 years above me.

I know where my next step is and it's only going to be a few years away. And they were grooming me exactly for that. I had my own corporate jet in that role. My first week in the job had my own Falcon. 57 top executives each had their own jet. I was ranked number four. So I had that own jet for about eight years, had bought the CEO's house, 13,000 square foot house with an eight car garage, golf greens, horse riding stables with an inside arena. I mean, probably the best way to describe where I was at age 32, even my first month in that position, is I was Justin Bieber. Before Justin Bieber, I mean, really, it was a rock star life. And shortly before that, a few years before that, ginger's mom was in hospital for ten months, and Ginger by her side. And Ginger became a Christian during that time. I mean, I think she went from maybe God in her head to God in her heart. God in her heart, and her relationship changed. So as she was getting obsessed and addicted, I'd say to Jesus, I was really caught up and addicted to this materialistic lifestyle, right?

Linda J. Hansen: So that can create a collision, of course, because one is temporal and one is eternal. And so, Ginger, as you watched him advance in his career, and you're thinking, I don't need all these fancy cars. We don't need to be spending all this money so lavishly, what were you concerned about as his career advanced?

Ginger Whitacre: Well, first and foremost, I was concerned about him because he was becoming something that he had never been. He was becoming what his employers were like, things that they valued, he now valued having multiple cars and fancy suits and flying on the edge and everything. That was so materialistic that I'd never seen him feel like that before. And it did put a huge wedge between us, because I was thinking, okay, this is great that you're making this money, but you're selling your soul for it. And he was like, But I can't find another job. This is the best job ever. And I'm like, okay, yeah, that income level. So I used a lot of his money for my projects of things with the church and summer camps and people that were in need. I mean, if he was going to make it, I'm going to use it for God's good at that point. But it was heartbreaking to see him get wrapped up in it. It was almost like as if someone was starting to become addicted to drugs. He was just like, everything had to be such something expensive, and it was never satisfied him. He'd get a bonus, he'd get a promotion, and it was never enough. It was always like, oh, I can't wait to get to the next level and the next pay raise, the next whatever. And that wasn't the person he was. So it was really heartbreaking to see him going on that journey for me, extremely heartbreaking.

Mark Whitacre: Yeah. I became very self-serving. This is an example of selfish leadership not serving leadership, and that's who I was being mentored by, were selfish leaders, and I was becoming them.

Linda J. Hansen: Yeah. It's amazing how much we talk about peer pressure in grade school or junior high or high school. But even as adults in our workplace, in our communities, we can experience peer pressure, and the need to conform is within our sin nature. I think, in a sense that it's scary to go out on your own and do something that is not what is perceived to be the normal path by others. But you were faced with a decision. Mark I'm not sure if the listeners even know all this, but what was happening at ADM that actually ended up changing your lives forever?

Mark Whitacre: Well, two things that kind of happened the first month when I started working there. Ginger got to meet who they were grooming me to replace, was our COO of the company. He was 69, I was 32, and we were at a closed door buying for our four year old son then, and he was buying for his grandchildren. He had a yellow Ferrari parked out front, and I didn't have a Ferrari yet. I eventually had eight guard Ferrari, two BMWs, two Mercedes, and his Bon Jovi all the way. And he looked out the window the first time he met Ginger. And I thought, wow, this is great. Ginger gets to meet somebody, especially someone they're grooming me to replace, and she got to meet him. And he never talked at all about the community and never talked about it. All about the 30,000 employee. All he said is, See that car out there? And my four year old is looking at thinking it'd be a neat little Matchbox car, that yellow Ferrari. And he said, yeah, I've got 14 special, really nice, high value cars like that. And he said, I'm going to make your husband a very rich man. And I remember when he left, Ginger said, I was excited. I think, Boy, I'm in the right place. This is exactly where I need to be. I'm going to replace him, who's worth hundreds of millions. At that point, he was and at that point, I was making six figures in base salary, but well, in the seven figures, almost 3 million a year just in bonuses and stock options. In a publicly traded company, the base salary is just kind of pay the bills and buy the grocery. Most of your salary really is bonuses and stock options, and that was well in the seven figures. So I was excited about him saying that. And Ginger said, the hair is standing on the back of my neck. She said, I think we made a huge mistake.

And I'm thinking I'm the most excited. She think it's a huge mistake. And then now, let's fast forward a couple of years later when the company saw me as family, and they came back in April of 1992. That was 1989 when I started. So now we're talking 1992. I'm 34 and she's 33. Then two years with the company, totally immersed in the company. CEO is now 77, the president's now 71. And they came back to my office and gave me 25,000 shares of stock, $100,000 check between the two, and just about a million dollars just that day. And then an hour later, I kind of knew what it was for. They said, Family, now Mark, we're going to bring you into some of the ways we do business. And they said they'd been meeting with their competitors for well over a decade. And basically they didn't use these terms, obviously, but basically we're fixing prices, international cartel, highly illegal, breaking antitrust laws. They didn't use any of that language, but that's what they were describing and said, we've been doing it for twelve years and this is the way real business is done. But we're at the age, Mark, you now need to start learning this because you're going to have to do that. You're going to have to take over this cartel. So they started mentoring and I asked them, then I said, Is that legal? They said, Mark, you know it's not legal, but everybody does it. In today's world, the commodity business, it's only way business. You survive in the commodity business. So in the real world, everybody does it. And we do it with all of our competitors and we've been doing it for over a decade. So I thought, well, they're 35, 40 years in those roles. I'm seven years out of college. They know a lot better than me. So I started being mentored on that until seven months later in November 1992, when Ginger started saying, boy, something about you in the last seven months you've not shared with me. I've known you since junior high. And we were deep into a conversation where I started sharing with her. And that's when I started sharing with her that I was being groomed to take over this price fixing scheme.

Linda J. Hansen: Yeah, it's totally amazing that that was happening. And Ginger, the hair on the back of your neck was certainly an indication that things were not right. So I know that Mark has shared with me before. And in speeches I've heard that you just continued to pray and you just continued to pray that God would move and move his heart so he would tell the truth. You wanted him to go to the FBI. And of course, Mark, you were saying, no, I can't do that. I'll lose my job, we'll lose all this money, all these things.

Mark Whitacre: CEO's, powerful man connected to President Clinton that he'd destroy us. And I just thought of all the worst that could happen.

Linda J. Hansen: Know. So, Ginger, what exactly led to the moment when Mark actually shared with the FBI what was happening?

Ginger Whitacre: Well, when Mark is telling me this story of what they're doing, I'm just kind of blown away one having to know, explain this cartel business to me. Like I said, I grew up in a working class family. My dad raised cattle on the side. There's nothing even to compare it to. And so as he's explaining this. And I'm thinking, gosh, this just sounds awful. It sounds like a crime. And I'm asking him. But in my heart, I'm hearing just feeling like this is not right. This is not right. And then I'm thinking when I ask him, who's paying for all this? That you guys are price fixing. Who's actually paying for this? And he's like, well, just the customers. When they go to the store, they'll pay five or $6. The consumers will pay five or $6 more when they go. And I'm thinking, okay, so my grandma, who lives on a fixed income, my sister, my brother, my parents, our neighbors, our good friends, they're all paying so that we can live in this brand house that you've chosen. And so that really bothered me that how would I sit across from my family at Thanksgiving and hear people, you know, the cost of things are going up, and we're really having to pinch pennies and thinking, you know, yeah, that's because AVM's taking your money. So it just really bothered me to my core. So I went up and prayed. And then it was a couple hours because I just really didn't know what to do because I didn't work at Adm. I don't really know anything. The real, true ins and outs know what was going on. And I just felt this overwhelming presence of the Lord just telling me it has to stop.It has to stop. That's all I could hear is it has to stop. Not knowing how to stop it. Like I said, I didn't work there. And just felt like we need to let the FBI know again. This is where it comes in. We're still extremely naive. Never had a car, a ticket. We've never had to deal with an attorney. We have nothing. Just like, okay, we should be able to tell the FBI. They'll take care of this whole matter.

Mark Whitacre: But she put her foot down. She said, you're either telling the FBI we're going to do it today or else or she's going to but today we're not going to think about this for a week and pray about it for a month. We're doing it today.

Ginger Whitacre: Because in my heart, I'm going like, I have to be judged by God one day, and he's telling me for this to stop. Well, I'm more afraid of God. I'm a God fearing woman. I'm not afraid of ADM and whatever else they can do. But I do know that one day I have to stand. And if he told me to stop it, then I need to do whatever I can do to stop it. That he would know.

Mark Whitacre: I'll never forget the guy. That same day, November 5, 1992 and I said, Ginger R CEO is a billionaire. He owns 5% of a $70 billion company. The largest single shareholder 5% is a huge I mean, that's the largest shareholder of a company that size number 56 on the Fortune 500. And I said he's close with President Clinton. He flew on President Clinton's plane to President Nixon's funeral. And I'll never forget when she said, you know, my CEO is even bigger than that and my CEO is Jesus. And I couldn't comprehend it. Just like when she was telling me with her car she didn't want to yell a Ferrari because she wanted to be a good steward for God. It was just like speaking Latin to me at that point. I couldn't grasp exactly.

Linda J. Hansen: And you were both kind of living in two different worlds. Like we said before, Ginger was thinking of the eternal and you're thinking of the temporal and the here and now and how to please those around you, as well as your own fleshly desires, in a sense, for material things and stuff. And the pride, I'm sure pride came into it and you fear. And so when you did talk to the FBI, then you were going to have immunity. And I understand to this day, when you wore a wire, they gave you a wire so that you could record everything that were teaching me. Yes. That you could get everything recorded and develop the case. And to this day, you're the person that has worn a wire the longest. Correct. An informant, that is. Yeah. And so how long did you wear? Three years. Yeah. Every day you got up and the FBI taped you up and put the wire on and you went out and.

Mark Whitacre: Tried to my chest, put microphones on my chest for Monday through Friday. And they said, Mark, if these guys catch you, they're going to kill you. I mean, I lost lots of weight during that time. I was blowing the driveway off of the gas leaf blower at three in the morning during mean the worry that they said, these guys are going to kill you if they catch you wearing a wire. That weighed heavily on me those three years.

Linda J. Hansen: Yeah. And from what I understand too, I mean, you were so afraid for what could happen to Ginger or your children and the know, power corrupts and corruption can create so many issues, so that fear was probably justified, but it eventually came to a point, too, where you were just unraveling and you tried to take your life. So I'm sure there might be listeners listening who maybe have been to a point in their life where they think, I've made such a mess of things, I can't take anymore. I'm causing too much hurt, or I'm too broken and hurt that they want to take their own life. But God had a different plan. So tell us a little bit about that.

Mark Whitacre: Yeah, just to kind of lead up to that. Basically, the FBI offered a six month plea deal of a lifetime, and Ginger wanted me to sign this six month plea deal, said, let's do this deal, get it behind us. You go in at 38 after. You were wired three years, come out at 38. And I told Ginger, I said, Ginger, I'm in this mess because of you. You're the reason for this whole mess. I fired the lawyer who recommended it, tore, ripped up the plea agreement, hired several lawyers, and started fighting the case for three years through the courts and got eight and a half years instead. And I would have had a six month deal, so I would have went in at 38, got out at 38. Now, I fought the case to age 40 and then going in for eight and a half years, I was so depressed. Wrote a 17 page letter to Ginger and the kids, and I tried to take my own life. I mean, I thought, they're better off without me. There's a lifeboat that holds four. A fifth person weighs it down, and literally, I'm weighing them down. I'm going to sink their lifeboat. They're better off without me. Tried to take my own life.

Hospitalized for several weeks. Someone reached out to me. His name was Ian Howes from a group called CBMC. Christian Businessmen Connection. He read about me in the newspaper. I'll never forget it's. A month after I attempted suicide, seven months before I go to prison. And he said, Mark, prison is going to be beginning of your life, and you're going to find your true purpose in your life. And I'm thinking my true purpose. I'm already going to prison for eight years. I couldn't even comprehend, really, but I said, I'm looking for hope. And that's when he said he was going to introduce me to Jesus. I said, I've been going to church with my wife. I went to church with my parents when I was young. I've already been to church. He said, no, Mark, I'm not talking about going to church. I'm talking about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And I would say that was the first seed that started changing my life over those next several months.

Ginger Whitacre: Well, by God, because we had a gardener that came every day at 08:00, not 07:59, not 08:01, 08:00. And Mark had attempted suicide in our barn, and he felt something tugging at his heart, 6:30. And he came at 6:30 in the Morning and opened the garage. And he's the one that saved. He was the vessel that saved Mark. Because God had put on his heart the urgency that he just felt he needed to get there to the garage.

Mark Whitacre: Like something in eight years, he never showed up. Showed up that regular time, I would have been past an hour earlier.

Ginger Whitacre: So God had a plan. He just said, Mark, you've messed up, buddy. I'm going to have to clean the slate here, and you're going to be mine again.

Linda J. Hansen: That is exciting, I always tell people that as much as we try to think we have control over our first breath or our last, we really don't. And we really don't these are God incidences, not coincidences. Yes, exactly. So to kind of move it forward, then, you were in prison, and I heard you say once that God could never have done with you in six months what he did with you in eight and a half years. And so could you tell the listeners exactly what happened in prison and how you came out a different man? Because that's really what led you to doing what you're doing now.

Mark Whitacre: Well, a man named Ian Alice kind of planted that seed. But my second week in prison, a man named Chuck Colson showed up about read about me in the Washington Post. At that time, they had newspapers. Not everything was online and digital. There was real paper in your hands. And he read about me, about me being sentenced, read about my case, saw a lot of his own life in my life, and showed up in prison. I didn't even know who he was. I was in high school when Watergate happened, so I knew President Nixon was, but I didn't know all the ones underneath President Nixon, like Attorney General and so on?

Linda J. Hansen: Yeah. And for the listeners who may be too young to even know who Chuck Coulson is, chuck Coulson worked with President Nixon, and he ended up going to prison during the Watergate scandal and things, and now he has since passed away. He left a ministry called Prison Fellowship that really reaches to prisoners because he knew that that is a great place to minister and help change lives. And it's a wonderful organization. I've actually had prison fellowship training. I just love it. So Chuck Coulson not only left a mark on your life, but he's left a true mark for eternity. And that started with something negative in his life that God turned around to a positive, just like he did with you. So you began this relationship with Chuck Coulson and what happened?

Mark Whitacre: Yeah. And he know. I had all this eight years of college telling me there is no God. I never met a Christian professor in eight years, and I even had professors at Cornell say, if you're a Christian, you can't be in my class. You're a Christian. You can't be a PhD scientist. So I started thinking my parents believed in God because they didn't go to college in my 20s when I was at Cornell. So I told Chuck that, and he went to Brown, I went to Cornell, both of us Ivy League. And he said he was told the same thing. He said, Mark, I'm telling you, they're lying. Some of the best scientists in the world believe in God. And he started outlining scientists after scientists. Even Albert Einstein said, only God could create the universe, and only God could create man. And just book after book and article after article, sir Isaac Newton wrote as much about Jesus as he did about science, and he sure didn't share all that with me at Cornell and just multiple dozens of scientists that believed in God to the point. After several months of that, I surrendered my life to Jesus for the first time in June 4, 1998, 3rd month in prison. And I just turned 41 a month before, and I can remember being on my knees and I said, God, how can you be a PhD scientist and not believe in God with all the evidence that I've just seen? And I became a Christian at that point at $20 a month for eight years in prison. After 3 million a year for eight years.

Now $20 a month for eight years, they became the most productive years of my life. I started helping guys get their GEDs and learn how to read some of the Spanish ones, learn how to read better, learn how to write better. I disciplined through some of the same tools that Chuck Colson had given me and disciplining them. And I tell you, they became the most productive years in my life. For the first time in my life, I was ever helping somebody else besides myself. And I saw how rewarding that was. I tell you, Linda, I feel like I became a free man in prison. So many and the real prison was that life of greed. But I really became a free man in prison. It's some of the most productive years of my life. And it changed my life forever. For when I got out two decades ago. It's just a whole different approach on life and being a servant leader and how rewarding that is. And for the last 20 years, I've worked in that faith at work movement, how you integrate faith at work. And now I get to do it a company the size of Coca Cola Consolidated, and it's a ministry that happens to be in the beverage business and nothing more exciting. God gave me a second chance, but he said, this time, Mark, I'm going to put you in a big company again, but this time you're going to do it my way or his way instead of my way. This time, do it God's way. And how rewarding that has been.

Linda J. Hansen: How rewarding. And I know, Ginger, this had to be such a journey for you. You had to be lonely. You had to struggle with anger at times. I'm sure there were times you were like, Are you kidding me, Mark? But then to see how the Lord has moved and really filled in all the empty places and just like in the story of Job, those years that were lost, really, god filled it up and gave you a large gain. And it's beautiful and the ministry you both have. But before we close or close the interview, I want to make sure, too, there was another thing that God did for your family that I think is just incredible and such a testament to the rewards of faith. It doesn't always work this way, but this is a way that is just amazing. I know these companies that were defrauded through ADM and they lost billions of dollars, right? And they were given a settlement when all this was done. And I know, Ginger, you and your children were trying to see Mark often. You were traveling to wherever he was and often moved to be close to him. When he was transferred to different prisons, your expenses continued even though his income went from 3 million to $20 a week. Yeah, $20 a month. Okay. So this is really quite the reduction in pay, and I'm sure this was such a faith journey, but tell us what it was. Either one of you can tell the story, but of what happened with these companies that were actually the victims of the crimes that were committed. What did they do?

Mark Whitacre: They gave Ginger a trust fund, helped finance her and my kids financially. The people I stole from took care of my family the entire time I was in prison. And one of the biggest victims was the whole Coca Cola system for high fructose corn syrup and sweeteners that go into beverages and so on, because that was one of ADM's, one of major products. Adm had to pay 400 million just part of that settlement. And I literally worked for a company today as vice president and officer of a company of a company I stole from 30 years ago, only God, right?

Linda J. Hansen: Only God. So, listeners, if you are facing something in your life right now, whether it's personal or professional, seek truth. And Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. And you can see from their story that just faithfully taking this to God and walking it through. It didn't mean there weren't hard times. It didn't mean there wasn't brokenness and pain and heartbreak and shame and all the things. But I want to just remind listeners, too, that shame never comes from God. Conviction can come from God, but shame and condemnation never come from God. But if there's something in your life that you're feeling shame about, give it to God, and he may convict you to do something. Just like Ginger, you said, this can't go on. This can't go on. And then he may convict you, but there will always be love, grace, and forgiveness, and so whatever it is. So, listeners, I often talk about how do you talk about all these things in the workplace? And this is policy related, because truth in the workplace ends up creating a better workplace.

When you have truth and integrity and honesty and Christian values in the workplace, you have a better workplace. So, yes, it's related to policy. Of course it is. It's personal policy of your own integrity, but also great leaders, people of integrity make great policy, whether it's in the company or in a government. So we start within our own hearts and within our own minds. And when we can be the best we can be because of our relationship with God, it just spills over. And as you talked about the T Factor Initiative and all these things. So before we close, what would you say to people listening, especially like, employers who may be looking at maybe these situations, maybe there's employees in a company who realize the way things are done are not right, and they'd like to maybe speak up, but they're scared to go against authority. What would you tell these people?

Mark Whitacre: I would say this that two things. One, that the truth is really our friend. And I didn't realize that until I really went through this journey. To me, it was true. Whatever would move me ahead and move me up the corporate ladder and whatever it took. And yet sometimes we step on our own grandma to move ahead, and that's not the way to go. It's almost like have a goal that's more of a life of significance than the way the world defines success. That's, first off, that really try to make the world a better place when you leave it than when you came in it. And that's doing it God's way, and that's honoring God, and that's serving others. It's rewarding to be a servant leader. And to me, looking around the world, the best top leaders in companies are servant leaders in every case. In terms of ones that see something that maybe that's not right, well, they got to pray about that like Ginger did. Should they leave the company? Is there ways that could help report it or abolish it without having to leave the company, but really pray about it and do like Ginger did and take and the main thing is don't get involved with it if you don't be like what I was. And boy, I moved up the corporate ladder by learning how to do it myself. At the very minimum, walk away from it, but even pray about it. Should they be doing even more than that to stop it?

Ginger Whitacre: I think prayer is by far the best pray about it because God already knows what's going on. He's just looking for warriors out there and people that are knowing the truth and are they willing to stand up. And if he wants you to leave, he will make a way for you to leave and avoid this situation. So prayer for everything, that's just great advice.

Linda J. Hansen: And that's great advice in the marketplace in the business world. But as we're looking at what happens all the time in our government right now, we see so much corruption and we see whistleblowers being threatened, know some have disappeared or their families are threatened, the FBI knocks down their door. I think the FBI that you dealt with is a little bit different than the FBI we're seeing now. And so I just want to encourage anybody who may be listening, who may be able to be a whistleblower for anything in the private sector or the public sector. Please don't be afraid to speak up and pray about it like they mentioned. And seek truth, because it's the only way we can bring about righteousness and things that will help people in the long run. But not only individuals and businesses, but our nation and the world. So think eternally, not temporarily, because the things of this world pass away, but our relationship with Jesus, that's eternal. And we all have to put our head on the pillow each night. And when we have our last breath, no one else is there. That boss that gave you millions of dollars in bonuses and told you you'd have fancy cars, that last breath, that person isn't there. That last breath is between a person and God. And that's who we have to answer to. Thank you so much. And so if people want to be involved with T factor or get a hold of you or Ginger, how would they do so?

Mark Whitacre: Well, we have a website,, and then the tab. If you look at the tabs on the top right hand corner, one of them has contact and has our email addresses on there. Two different email addresses. They're welcome to contact us. And if they'd love to attend a T Factor event, we have one on September 7, another 1 December 7. We do nine events each year, so it's every few weeks we're doing events, some in person and some virtual. So the virtual ones, we'd love to invite them. And I'll just mention my email address to right now is Mark Whitacre. Mark Whitacre. Whitacre at cokeconsolidated. C-O-K-E. Coke. Consolidated. But it's also on my website. We'd love to hear from them, love to invite them to T Factor. And we're married 44 years. It's a miracle of God. Look back. Thank God we didn't accept the six month sentence. I wouldn't have listened to a Chuck Colson and Ian Howes. I needed to be broken. And sometimes we learn more in our brokenness and suffering. And today I thank God for brokenness, you know.

Linda J. Hansen: You know. So listeners, just remember that whatever you're facing in your life, there's always hope. And if you get discouraged, just listen again to this interview, go to their website and be renewed by their story and example. Because God is good all the time, and he can take the most unpleasant situations or complex situations and turn them around for good. So thank you, Mark. And Ginger. Just an honor and a joy to have you on the podcast today.

Mark Whitacre: Thank you. Thank you for having us.

Ginger Whitacre: Thank you.

Linda J. Hansen: Thank you again for listening to the Prosperity 101 Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, share, and leave a great review. Don't forget to visit to access the entire podcast library to order my newest book, Job Security Through Business Prosperity: The Essential Guide to Understanding How Policy Affects Your Paycheck or to enroll you or your employees in the Breakroom Economics online course. You can also receive the free e-book, 10 Tips for Helping Employees Understand How Public Policy Affects Their Paychecks. Freedom is never free. Understanding the foundations of prosperity and the policies of prosperity will help you to protect prosperity as you become informed, involved, and impactful. Please contact us today at to let us know how we can serve you. Thank you.