Tuesday, June 28

An open letter to Richard Scrushy

Dear Mr. Scrushy:

Congratulations on beating the rap in your $2.7-billion accounting fraud trial. That is no mean feat.

However, there are a lot of people who are coming to terms with your acquittal, not ready to attach "innocence" to your name. Just ask Michael Jackson, who beat his charges, but was labelled as a "probable pedophile" by one of the twelve who set him free.

So, here are some things I recommend you do to repair your public image:

1) Be Gracious. Avoid speaking ill of anyone who wished you the worst. Keep the focus on you and your family. And take a vacation.

2) Don't storm the citadel at HealthSouth. Yes, it's your baby. Yes, as far as the law is concerned, you've been vindicated and have every right to reclaim your office. Don't. They will make your return ugly. Express your relief that HealthSouth is on better financial footing. You can go home again, but don't sour your public persona by running back inside today. That would look too greedy.

3) Do not cancel your "Morning Viewpoint" show. Too many people saw this show as a transparent ploy to recast your image. Prove them wrong.

4) Re-invest in the community. Yeah, a lot of organizations were quick to pull your name off those schools and buildings and streets and libraries that carried your name. That's not what you need to re-approach. Let your next wave of philanthropy be quiet -- let word of mouth carry the day. As long as you don't appear to be "buying" good will, you'll succeed. You lost a lot of people at once, you need to get them back one at a time.

As I write this, you are already putting some of this advice to use. I heard you say something to the effect of "We give all the glory to God, who gave me and my wife the strength to endure this torture..." It's not enough to say the right things... you've got to live them over time. Just use the same discipline you did in the pre-trial phase.

Just be content to re-cast a new legacy. Leave the old one behind. There was too much baggage there anyway.

Trying to be fair, your pal...


(p.s. -- some of my friends reading this may have other advice for you too. They'll add it to the comments section.)


At 6/28/2005 02:13:00 PM, Blogger Peter Himler said...

I think your advice is sound. What intrigues me is what forces led the jury to acquit this man? As you know, I wrote about his overtly public campaign to vigorously defend his honor. You chimed in by citing the cable TV show he started, etc.

Is this a a good strategy? Would Tyco's Dennis Kozlowski have been acquitted had he followed the same path to shaping the court of public opinion? Food for thought.

At 6/29/2005 06:37:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I understood was this: The jury didn't find him "innocent", they found him "not guilty". They said that the prosecution put together an aweful case full of holes and discreditable (?) evidence. The jury just couldn't find that whole "beyond reasonable doubt" thing.

What I *think* is this: Scrushy's got alot of money stashed with alot of people. These people just, quite simply, paid the jury off.

At 6/29/2005 08:53:00 AM, Blogger Ike said...

You're certainly entitled to your opinion. And that's something Richard Scrushy will have to make peace with -- that a sizeable population will neither trust nor like him.

It shouldn't change the things he needs to do from a public image perspective.

At 7/01/2007 08:28:00 PM, Blogger Chuck Gallagher said...

While every media outlet is reporting that HealthSouth's founder, Richard Scrushy, was sentenced to six years and 10 months in Federal prison for bribery, there many looming questions that will likely be overshadowed by numerous shouts of judicial victory. As a high profile case, keep in mind that Scrushy was acquitted of a $2.7 billion accounting fraud trial in Birmingham. Following his acquittal, Scrushy proclaimed his innocence in the face of prosecutors who were none to happy.

Immediately there were cheers of judicial joy shouted all over the internet. Scrushy finally got what he deserved stated one blog with no apology for the gleeful tone. It seems that people easily find joy in another's trials. Funny, but focusing on another trials often keeps the focus off of our own issues and the pain of true human growth.

I feel for Scrushy. I know what he has been through and I know what its like to walk into Federal prison. Although in Scrushy's case he was immediately taken into custody - something rarely done in a white-collar crime case. Scrushy has exchanged a life of prestige and power to living in a place void of most worldly distractions. But, prisons are places where real personal changes can occur. Certainly, over then next five years or so, Mr. Scrushy will have time for meaningful self-evaluation.

On a crisp October day in 1995, I took 23 physical steps… opened a door… and began a new experience that was life-changing. Thinking back 12 years ago, I would never have considered that I, a competent, well educated man, would be sitting in prison. That was a life educational experience where I learned, really for the first time, that there are consequences to every unethical choice we make. Though one might think that we can avoid the consequences, the reality is that they are unavoidable and certain. We just don't know how or when we will face the inevitable.

Prison time gave me the opportunity to focus on "choices." Every choice has a consequence. The consequences are inescapable. They can be negative (prison for example) or positive and we, through the choices we make in life, control the outcome. Scrushy controlled this consequence he is now facing. He might have felt that he dodged the bullet when he avoided the first possible conviction, but the consequences of his unethical actions did yield a result.

Today, Scrushy will wake up each day and be counted - known as a number - and will occupy his time working and reflecting. He will be denied the simple pleasures that we take for granted. And, he will learn to regret those choices that he will recall often - the choices in life that earned him this privilege.

But, is there life following prison? Once again from personal experience I found the answer is yes! However, it is without doubt a function of the choices you make. Never forget, every choice has a consequence. We can make from the trials of life what we want. We all journey through life struggling to find some meaningful purpose to our earthly existence. Through this we all make choices and mistakes. From time to time we may receive help along the way and if we are really fortunate we might have the insight to "pay it forward" and help others.

As a former CPA, through a series of bad choices or serious ethics lapses, I became a white-collar criminal. Now, I am a sales executive in a publicly held company (something highly unusual for a convicted felon) and an international motivational speaker. I now take the time to review my lessons from prison and write about those experiences so that others may gain benefit and perhaps learn from the experience of others. Some of us learn lessons the hard way. Yet, through sharing the experience of my incarceration and return to productivity, others have stated that they've been able to look at their choices in a different and more productive way.

I learned a lot in prison. Mostly I became aware that success is not defined by our material possessions, but rather how we can help others. Through the Choices Foundation, which I founded, and my speaking and writing, I find today that helping others is a joy. People often ask, looking back, what I think about my time in prison. My response, "Best thing that ever happened to me." While I won't make the choices that would send me back (I didn't like it that much), I gained great insight while there and know that there is life following prison.

Perhaps, over time, Mr. Scrushy will learn through careful insight that following his time in prison he will emerge stronger and able to be a powerful voice of hope. Meanwhile, let us not forget that his family is experiencing pain, and perhaps we can remember them as they face new trials of their own.

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