October 2nd, 2009
05:22 AM GMT
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Why would anyone hire a delusional liar and convicted felon?

 Mark Whitacre, right, at the premiere of 'The Informant' with Matt Damon.
Mark Whitacre, right, at the premiere of 'The Informant' with Matt Damon.

Paul A. Willis, CEO and president of Cypress Systems in California, did just that when he hired Mark Whitacre, the real-life informant in the movie "The Informant!"

Back in 2001, Willis was searching for staff for his small company, which produces selenium, a food supplement that shows promise in reducing the risk of cancer. One of his consulting researchers suggested Whitacre, who has a Ph.D in selenium research and experience running a division of a multinational firm.

“And, by the way, you know he’s in prison,” Willis recalls being told.

For most potential employers, prison wouldn’t be considered happy headhunting grounds. But luckily for Whitacre, Willis was no ordinary employer.

Besides running a business that focuses on Whitacre’s expertise, Willis and his wife also are active in prison ministry work. “Our faith in Jesus Christ says we’re all given a second chance, and redemption plays a big part in our faith,” he said.

“It wasn’t a light decision (to hire Whitacre), but it was totally evident to me he accepted his full role in this,” said Willis, who starting meeting with Whitacre in prison in 2001 and hired him immediately upon his release in 2006. “He’s not blaming anyone, but taking full responsibility … he’s focused on not being bitter, but getting better and moving on with his life.”

Another convicted white-collar felon, Sam Antar, is more circumspect on the subject of redemption. Although he now lectures government organizations and businesses about white-collar crime,  he stops short of saying he’s  "reformed."

“If I tell you I’m not a criminal any more, should you really believe me?” said Antar, who cooked the books in a multi-million securities fraud in the 1980s. “White-collar criminals wrap themselves around a wall of false integrity.”

As more white-collar criminals get collared, questions surrounding rehabilitation will likely grow, too.

Do you believe white-collar criminals can change their ways? Share your stories with CNN.

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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Bitter Cynic

    Bernard Madoff played a great trade:-
    Live like an emperor on the back of other peoples money, make sure you and those you love are looked after as royalty, then spend your final years in a clean, safe white collar prison with full medical assistance.

    He planned for this a long time ago and as a worst-case scenario it's better than most of the people of the world are faced with.

    No I don't think it's possible for white-collar criminals to change their ways. Thier fundamental sense of entitlement gets in the way. Sam Antar in the article knows exactly what I'm talking about.

    October 2, 2009 at 11:53 am |
  2. varsha

    Honestly I don't believe these people ever regret what they did. You either have wealth or conscience!! Both don't go together.

    I also like to believe that quite a lot of companies facing break-neck competition do tend to resort to tampering with balance sheets or using other unethical means, just because its a do or die situation for them, consumers tend to have a herd mentality and a small lead by the competitor can ruin total prospects of a company. The only quality required for such managers/ owners of the company is to be smart enough not to be caught, & if at all caught, pretend to have suddenly regained the conscience and realised their misconducts. The consumers like to believe such happy-ending stories, never realizing they're being fooled, as always..

    The only way a businessman can be made to behave ethically is to assure him his competitor is doing the same.. & the same applies to the competitor..its not an easy task.

    October 2, 2009 at 2:16 pm |
  3. onno

    Making money is one thing but if you want to make it quickly you have to be unscrupulous. Whether this Madoff or any other banker people are going to suffer. The ultimate goal is to make money and the only way to make it in the present time of rat races is not to be honest or be straight forward. The new type of bankers are a separate class but everybody likes to make money the easy way so everybody is an easy target for them.I know because I married one and God do they know how to take you to the cleaners!

    October 3, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  4. Angie

    All of you know nothing of what you are talking about. Have you ever done anything wrong in your life. Ever had a drink at happy hour and got into your car? Ever bounced a check? Ever told a lie? I mean come on nothing? Yeah right. I am sure you have made at least one mistake in your past that you have regretted right? I mean unless your Jesus, you are not perfect. You do not know what was going on in their minds at the time their crime was being committed. Most of them can't stop what they are doing. An arrest is usually a relief. When is it going to be that in corrections, they try to determine what started the problem in the first place and treat the underlying problem as part of rehabilitation. Most people with a brain come out of a situation like this a better person, remorseful and helpful to others. They have the unique understanding of what is really important in life. I am sure they finally see it's not money.

    October 9, 2009 at 12:11 pm |
  5. FA

    No- atleast Sam Antar is now being somewhat honest...he is still a crook and any company that hires him to "consult" or speak on white collar crime is paying a criminal.

    I have no idea why CNN or any reputable news agency would again and again get quotes from an admitted fraudster that says himself is NOT reformed. He is a media pimp and will say anything to get his ugly lying face in the news to support his "consulting" business.

    October 13, 2009 at 3:05 pm |
  6. Enna Arjona Lara

    No. The only thing they regret is been caugth. As they rob by smiling, not by grinning at you, I think they learn, during the time of jail, about what were the errors they committed in order to avoid them when the time comes to rob again. These people like to make money the easy way, and they really like money and what money buys. These won't change.

    Regarding Paul A. Willis, I think he is a hypocrite and the only thing he is interested in is in getting the mo$t for the lea$t.

    October 24, 2009 at 12:19 am |
  7. Antione Malzahn

    Under FDA regulations at 21 CFR part 111, all domestic and foreign companies that manufacture, package, label or hold dietary supplement, including those involved with testing, quality control, and dietary supplement distribution in the U.S., must comply with the Dietary Supplement Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) for quality control.*,...

    Our very own blog site http://healthfitnessbook.comdk

    June 21, 2013 at 4:47 am |

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