Former HealthSouth CFO Aaron Beam delivers ethics lecture to Smeal students

February 05, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Last month, a former chief financial officer who spent three months in federal prison for fraud spoke to Penn State Smeal College of Business students about his ethical mistakes. As part of the G. Albert Shoemaker Lecture Series, former CFO of HealthSouth Corp. Aaron Beam described for students the series of events that left him pleading guilty to criminal charges in the early 2000s.

On this visit to Penn State — Beam’s fifth since beginning his speaking career — he spoke to a group of Penn State Smeal MBA students as well as undergrads enrolled in Management 451W: Business, Ethics, and Society.

"You have to train people how to be ethical. Business students need to be trained to deal with the ethical dangers they will face.”

-- Aaron Beam, former HealthSouth CFO

Beam’s message in the evening presentation to undergraduates was that “if you get involved in a work environment where cheating is okay, your tolerance for that kind of behavior will increase.”

What started for Beam as a few bad accounting practices led to falsifying numbers in order to meet investor expectations.

“I should have had the courage to stand up and say no,” he told students.

The fraud took its toll on Beam; despite never speaking up about HealthSouth’s missteps, he retired from the company in 1997.

It was nearly six years after his retirement that news of the $2 billion HealthSouth scandal broke, but Beam and each CFO after him were held accountable for their actions.

Today, Beam talks to business students all over the country about learning how to behave ethically.

“You have to train people how to be ethical,” he said. “Business students need to be trained to deal with the ethical dangers they will face.”

More information on Aaron Beam can be found on his website, His book, "HealthSouth: The Wagon to Disaster," was published in 2009.

The Shoemaker Lecture is the centerpiece of the Shoemaker Program in Business Ethics, established in 1985 through a $100,000 gift from the late G. Albert Shoemaker and his wife, Mercedes, to support ethics education at Smeal.

About Honor and Integrity at Smeal
Integrity and ethical behavior are fundamental to the Smeal College of Business culture. Commonly referred to as “honor and integrity,” these values underscore who we are and what we do as a leading business school community, both in and out of the classroom. The college's foundation of honor and integrity lies in the Honor Code, drafted in partnership with master of business administration students in 2006 and adopted by undergraduates in 2007. Honor and integrity are infused into courses across the Smeal curriculum, and the G. Albert Shoemaker Program in Business Ethics supports ethics lectures and related scholarly research. For more information on honor and integrity at Smeal, visit

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Last Updated February 06, 2014