Weston Smith, the whistleblower of the massive accounting fraud at Birmingham-based HealthSouth Corp., told a group of students from the UAB School of Business that he was "scared to death" while aiding the multibillion-dollar scam during his time as an accountant and chief financial officer at the company.
"I've lost everything financially. I've lost a career and my CPA license, but do I have regrets about coming forward and blowing the whistle? No. None whatsoever," Smith told the UAB forensic accounting students who participated in the Nov. 18 interactive lecture.
"Coming forward was very freeing," said Smith, a former HealthSouth chief financial officer who served more than a year in prison for his role in the company's $2.7 billion fraud. "I knew that I was in a lot of trouble, but I also knew for the first time in a long time that I was doing the right thing."
Forensic accounting is the practice of tracking or investigating corporate fraud through the analysis of financial statements and records using specialized techniques and strategies.
"We want to give our forensic accounting students the best learning opportunities available, and Weston Smith is well-prepared through experience to teach the importance of accurate and legal accounting practices - and the pitfalls that come with perpetrating fraud," said Tommie Singleton, Ph.D., the program director.
"You learn a lot through the text books, but I think I can offer these students something that is very sincere and very real. Hopefully, it will touch them in a way that is more personal than what they can get out of a school book," Smith said.
Smith and the company's other financial officers said founder and former chief executive Richard Scrushy orchestrated the HealthSouth fraud. Scrushy was acquitted of all criminal charges related to the fraud in a 2005 federal trial, but he is in prison after convictions on unrelated bribery charges.