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Fraud and ethics: one CFO’s experience

Weston SmithWeston Smith, former CFO for the Fortune 500 company HealthSouth, will be speaking on corporate fraud and ethics at Stetson University on Thursday, April 18, from 5-6 p.m. in the Lynn Business Center, Rinker Auditorium. Using his personal experiences, Smith will discuss the mechanics of fraud, identifying fraud, and broader issues of personal and business ethics. He will also share his thoughts on the decision to ultimately blow the whistle on his former company.

Smith (pictured at right) worked for HealthSouth for more than 12 years, during which time the company grew from one location to over 2000 throughout the United States. In 2003, he voluntarily exposed a multi-year, multi-billion dollar financial statement fraud within the company and his participation in it. Smith pled guilty to several federal counts and eventually spent 14 months in federal prison and forfeited assets for his part in the fraud.

“We had to come up with elaborate schemes to perpetuate the fraud,” Smith explains. “It was a time of absolute nauseating excess, though the company wasn’t doing anything.” He finally came forward after the U.S. Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of July 2002, which forced companies to have transparent financial reporting to protect investors.

Now, Smith talks openly about the company and the fraud, and how it went undetected, using his experiences to teach and encourage others the value of working responsibly and the consequences of unethical decisions. Smith’s lecture will show how the failure of HealthSouth is relevant to today’s business world. The presentation will not be solely an accounting or business discussion, but also a look into the importance of ethics in the work environment, and how immoral and unethical choices can be stopped.

Cultural credit will be offered to business majors for attending the lecture which is open and free to the public. In addition to the open lecture, Smith will be talking to selected Stetson accounting and business classes on April 18. Smith has presented his lecture to a multitude of professional groups and universities such as Vanderbilt University, Penn State University, and University of Notre Dame.

“I think that everyone can benefit from learning more about fraud and importance of ethics and integrity in the business world,” said Mike Bitter, Rinker Distinguished Professor of Accounting and Chair of the M.E. Rinker, Sr. Institute of Tax and Accountancy. “The message of the presentation is in line with Stetson’s values, particularly integrity and professionalism as well as personal responsibility and social justice. Integrity and ethics should be at the core of any business. When businesses and business people are not ethical and do not conduct themselves with integrity, the negative ramifications to others can be significant. It is important for us to learn from the mistakes of others.”

For more information about Weston Smith, visit www.westonsmith.biz/