A millionaire’s tale: Cooking the books means prison

Former HealthSouth Corp. executive Aaron Beam will be at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville next week to talk about his role in one of the biggest corporate scandals of the past decade.

Beam, former co-founder and CFO of the Birmingham, Ala.-based healthcare company, will detail how cooking the books when the company’s earnings fell short landed him in federal prison.

He is scheduled to speak at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at the University Center Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Several former HealtSouth executives went to prison as a result of the $2.5 billion corporate fraud. The company has recovered from the scandal and operates more than 90 inpatient rehabilitation hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Beam’s story should be interesting. The former millionaire left Healthsouth in 1997 after being pressured by former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to cook the books.

“I did it for four quarters — for a year — then I couldn’t live with it anymore,” Beam says on his website.

Six years after he left the company the scandal broke. Beam eventually confessed to his crimes and served three months in prison.

He now calls himself an “educational speaker, corporate accounting ethics.”

His message is simple: Do the right thing.

“There are a lot of sociopaths heading major corporations,” he says on the website. “They have huge egos, they intimidate people, they totally believe that they are right in everything, they have no empathy for other people. If you’re in the workplace and you have a boss like that, be aware. Realize that one day, you could be asked to do something you shouldn’t do. Don’t be overly influenced by others to the point that you do wrong. You have to have some moral character about how you conduct yourself in the business world. The pressure to make earnings, to make money, can lead you down a path that you shouldn’t go.”

More on Beam

Tuscaloosa News: Ex-HealthSouth head gives students advice

Birmingham Business Journal: Crossing the line: HealthSouth CFO Aaron Beam speaks out

Aaron Beam’s website