Scrushy turns to the web in his own defense

BIRMINGHAM, AL: Former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy - indicted on 85 criminal charges last week in relation to his alleged role in defrauding the company's investors by inflating profits - has launched a website to address the charges and communicate with the press.

BIRMINGHAM, AL: Former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy - indicted on 85 criminal charges last week in relation to his alleged role in defrauding the company's investors by inflating profits - has launched a website to address the charges and communicate with the press.

Launched on October 28, the site - RichardMScrushy.com - features a letter from Scrushy attorney Tom Sjoblom that reads, "This website gives us a medium to help set the record straight and level the playing field. No longer will the public have to be content with a single, one-sided presentation of the facts filtered through and reflecting the personal prejudices of various news reporters. Those stories will be changed and corrected."

It also features a letter from Scrushy in which he states that the accusations against him are false, and professes "great sorrow" in the wake of the fraud charges.

In a section titled "Setting Things Straight," Scrushy's lawyers comment on various statements made by his detractors in the media. One entry, called "They Said...We Say," features allegations made by journalists regarding the financial status of the healthcare company. Sjoblom responds by stating, "While it remains a stable company, HealthSouth experienced a substantially higher cash flow when Richard Scrushy was at the helm."

Other celebrities and CEOs have recently used websites to communicate and control messages during a trial or controversy. The method would appear to allow the person in question to communicate directly in a tightly controlled environment and precisely with stakeholders, including the media, while closely adhering to legal advice about public comment.

Most recently, domesticity guru Martha Stewart, the former CEO of her eponymous media company, established a website, marthatalks.com, to address fans and investors in the wake of charges stemming from an insider trading investigation. Her legal team and its PR firm, Citigate Sard Verbinnen, developed that site.

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