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Event to feature ex-HealthSouth officer

STARKVILLE — A Sept. 24 public program at Mississippi State University (MSU) will feature an eyewitness’ account of how the collapse of Birmingham, Ala.-based HealthSouth became one of the biggest corporate frauds in history.

“A Wagon to Disaster” is the title of a presentation by Aaron Beam, the healthcare company’s former CFO. The program begins at 3:30 p.m. in the Taylor Auditorium of McCool Hall, home of the university’s College of Business.

Beam’s campus visit is a featured event of the 2009 MSU Accounting Convocation sponsored by the college and its Adkerson School of Accountancy.

HealthSouth, the nation’s largest provider of outpatient surgery and rehabilitative services, was founded by Beam and Richard Scrushy in 1984. Revenues grew to more than $3.5 billion until 1996, when earnings fell just short of a publically announced goal. According to later court testimony, Scrushy, the company’s chief executive, ordered at that point that the books were to be “fixed.”

Beam resigned from the company in 1997. Over subsequent years, he came to believe that HealthSouth again was making its Wall Street numbers, though, in reality, Scrushy’s eventual billion-dollar fraud was continuing.

In 2003, the reality was made public by one of Beam’s successors. When the case came to trial in 2005, Beam and the four other CFOs testified against Scrushy (who eventually was convicted after two trials). In the meantime, Beam pleaded guilty to bank fraud.

Beam, who now shares his experiences and ethical regrets with national audiences, has called corporate greed “the Black Plague of the financial world,” as well as a major threat to America’s ability to maintain free-market capitalism.

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