November 10, 2011


Aaron Beam Presents Guest Lecture

Aaron Beam, Jr., author of HealthSouth, The Wagon to Disaster was a guest lecturer at Northeast Alabama Community College November 3. Beam spoke to a large crowd of students, faculty, staff, and community members.

The lecture centered on the untold story of HealthSouth, one of America’s most successful health care companies and consequently, the perpetrator of one of its biggest frauds in history. Beam took the audience from HealthSouth’s humble beginnings, through its meteoric rise to its disastrous revelation, subsequent trial and his three-month incarceration in a Federal prison. Moreover, he reveals the nature of the fraud and the true personality of the driving force behind HealthSouth – Richard Marin Scrushy.

Beam ‘s story reads like the "Great American Success Story": start a company from zero, raise some venture capital, take the company public in two years, become a millionaire overnight and see the company become the darling of Wall Street. But this success story didn't end there when he found himself in the middle of a corporate scandal, lost almost everything and ended up in prison. That's not the way success stories are supposed to end, but that was his harsh reality.

"I think others can learn from my story," Beam says. "From how I started a major company, how I got involved in the fraud while serving as Chief Financial Officer, and more importantly, the human story, the pain of going through a trial and going to prison."

Anguished and guilt-ridden, he resigned from the company in 1997. As the years passed, hearing nothing in the media, he mistakenly believed that HealthSouth was indeed making its numbers. In reality, the fraud continued until 2003, when it was made public by one of Beam's successors. He and each of the other four CFOs testified against Scrushy when the case when to trial in 2005. In the meantime, Beam pled guilty to bank fraud.

"You look back and think, 'What was I thinking? Why didn't I just do the right thing?' But when you're caught up in the heat of the battle, it didn't seem so simple," he recalls. "I've learned my lesson. Today, if I was faced with a similar kind of thing, I know I would do the right thing."

When Beam looks back on his time in prison, he understands how fortunate he was. "I was only in for three months - that's rare. Most people there were there for multiple years. If I had been incarcerated for 5 years or so, that would have been hard to take. Being in prison is no fun. It was an emotional, tough thing. The embarrassment to your family and friends - that was the hardest thing. But my family loved me and stuck by me."

Stressing the positive outcome of an extremely negative experience is an important part of Beam's story. "It helped me realize what really, truly is important - your family and your health. If you've got that, you're okay."

Today, HealthSouth remains a viable company, the largest in its field. "In a way, I can still take pride in HealthSouth," says Beam. "It's a great company."

With the HealthSouth turmoil behind him, Beam is focusing on the future. He believes it's his obligation to share his story so that others won't be led astray. He understands the pressures that abound in the boardroom. He wants to educate today's business leaders - and the leaders of tomorrow - to the pitfalls to watch for along the road to success.

Beam was available after the lecture for a book signing. For more information about Beam go to

Pictured at the presentation are (L-R) Haley Johnson, Instructor of Business and Economics; Aaron Beam, author/guest lecturer; Sam Dobbs, Division Director of Business and Computer Science; and Keith McBride, Instructor of Business.