It is easy to be tempted to walk away from ethics when riches are dangled in front of you, Aaron Beam, a felon and former CFO of HealthSouth told students in the Bill and Pat Child Family Community Hall of the SFEBB on Sept. 27.
Beam, who spent three months in prison after being convicted of bank fraud after being partly responsible for HealthSouth’s scheme to inflate profit by “cooking the books,” spoke to students about his experience and the importance of being ethical.
Beam advised students to look out for the people they work with in a particular company. He warned students that charismatic leaders with large egos and no signs of feeling guilt should be red flags, and to get out as fast as possible if surrounded by anyone who pressures you to be unethical. Beam’s CEO, Richard Scrushy, included Beam in a lie from the first week he began working with him. It’s a major regret of Beam’s that he did not stand up for himself from the beginning and get out before the pressure that led to fraud became an issue.
Another main point in Beam’s speech was the danger of greed and money. He explained how the definition of success has shifted from “being kind, generous and happy” to “wealthy and powerful” and the danger of temptation. Being involved in the HealthSouth scandal turned Aaron into a temporary millionaire, where he was buying new sports cars annually and had several beautiful homes and condos, even one with a football field in his backyard. Aaron testified that the guilt, being labeled a felon, and the experiences he had in prison are not worth it, and they ruin your life.
The speaker was presented by the Ethics Club, also known as the University of Utah Student Center for the Public Trust. They will have several other events this year.