Despite beating 36 counts related to accounting fraud at HealthSouth Corp., Richard M. Scrushy is not about to send his legal team packing.
Now he's going after HealthSouth. He thinks that under the terms of his employment agreement, HealthSouth is to pay his legal fees in the event of an acquittal, according to his lawyer Donald V. Watkins. "There's no question he'll be seeking that soon," Watkins said.
But HealthSouth's board has said it disagrees with Scrushy's assertion because it voided his employment contract in March 2003.
Scrushy counters that he was "illegally terminated" from his chief executive position, and he plans to go to court to get that job back, said defense team spokesman Charles Russell.
Scrushy still sits on the board of HealthSouth and is its largest individual shareholder. But the senior managers and directors, most of whom joined HealthSouth in the past two years, have made it clear they do not want him to return. He could lose his board seat when shareholders vote for a new slate next year. And the Securities and Exchange Commission could fine him and bar him from serving as an officer or director of a public company.
In addition, he faces 58 lawsuits, including several filed by shareholders and some filed by him against media companies, according to Russell.
Although Scrushy will continue to be entangled in lawsuits, he has already begun to rehabilitate his public image, said Michael W. Robinson, vice president of District-based crisis public relations firm Levick Strategic Communications, which does not represent Scrushy.
Before, during and after the trial, Scrushy made a point of displaying his religious devotion, holding regular prayer meetings and appearing in churches across Birmingham. "He may well believe it, but it played well to the jury pool," Robinson said. "The jury chose not to blame him."
After the verdict, Scrushy delivered a public statement, sounding alternately like a preacher and an Oscar winner. He thanked the jury, God, his family, and a bevy of bishops and pastors.
"I don't understand why people are so critical. What's wrong? What happened to the compassion in this world?" Scrushy asked. "You've got to have compassion in this world, folks, because you don't know who's next, who's going to be attacked next."
Robinson said that if Scrushy wants to overhaul his image, he will have to pull what Robinson called "a Milken" -- a reference to Michael R. Milken, the former junk bond trader whose name became synonymous with the Wall Street excesses of the 1980s. Robinson said Milken rehabilitated his reputation by investing millions in cancer research.
Scrushy, said Robinson, could achieve similar results if he devotes himself to a health-related cause such as malnutrition or immunization of African American children.
Scrushy is not devoid of assets. He still has his $2.6 million home, according to property records. He also owns a construction and development company called Marin Inc., Russell said.
Finally, Scrushy will always be welcome at Point of Grace Ministries, Bishop Dusty Hammock said.
Scrushy visited the Pentecostal church in Birmingham several weeks ago, while he was still on trial for accounting fraud. Just before the jury read its verdict, Hammock received a call to go down to the courthouse, where he heard Scrushy give his thanks to God.
Afterward, Hammock said he expected to see "Brother Richard" -- as Hammock refers to him -- in front of his 200-member congregation soon.
"He's a very good speaker, very dynamic. I hope to have him in the pulpit as often as I can," Hammock said. "Now his message will be how to survive tough times."