Embezzlement Case Serves as Ethical Reminder for CFOs

Embezzlement Case Serves as Ethical Reminder for CFOs
Former Nonprofit CFO, Timothy Lee Brown

Former Chief Financial Officer Timothy Lee Brown has been charged with embezzling nearly half a million dollars from the Rehabilitation and Visiting Nurse Association, a nonprofit in Fort Collins, Colorado. After confessing his guilt, Brown was sentenced to six years in prison for stealing funds from 2002 through 2012. Brown used the funds to pay for his house and car, and to provide for his family. In a confession letter, Brown explained exactly how he was able to embezzle money throughout the years.

An Ethical Reminder for CFOs

The recent arrest of Timothy Lee Brown is a reminder of the incredible responsibility and trust placed on CFOs everywhere. Since CFOs interact so closely with sensitive financial information and drive company sustainability, the responsibility for ethical business practices and honesty should never be overlooked.

For instance, Walt Disney Company’s CFO Jay Rasulo is attributed with helping the company track international revenue at $40 billion. While CFOs like Jay Rasulo have traditionally been responsible for running the numbers, job responsibilities are colliding and CFOs face more social and ethical accountability. In fact, a recent Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited study shows that 51 percent of CFOs expect their involvement to increase over the year.

In 2003, CFO Aaron Beam of HealthSouth was charged with embezzlement – a case very similar to that of Timothy Lee Brown. Beam has since warned that there is an unspoken danger of ethics meltdowns for CFOs. As much as financial skill and management matter, trust and ethical business practices are equally if not more important, says Beam. In fact, since his warning, all of Beam’s CFO-successors have spent time in jail for their own fraud.

Despite his own ethical shortcomings, Beam currently warns against the dangers of embezzlement and encourages current CFOs to practice a higher level of ethical business. Aside from developing a sustainable financial strategy for their companies, CFOs should also be truth tellers who maximize their resources and display exemplary character.

Since being charged for embezzlement, Timothy Lee Brown has repaid over half of the stolen amount. The checks that he stole totaled $446,005 with credit card charges at $72,977 – to date, Brown has repaid $335,000. With Brown’s scheme recently uncovered, this serves as a reminder to CFOs and companies everywhere that trust and security are as valued as financial skill and savvy.