On Thursday, Judge Allwin Horn ordered Scrushy to pay a whopping $2.88 billion to the chain of rehabilitation hospitals he once led.
Once a self-styled rock-n-roll CEO, Scrushy led HealthSouth with the sort of freewheeling business culture that looks downright Caligula-like today. If Judge Horn's ruling withstands all appeals, it would leave Birmingham's once-celebrity executive all but ruined.
The lawsuit was a so-called "derivatives action," brought by shareholders on behalf of the company. Much of the damages recouped from Scrushy would go back to HealthSouth.
However, it is all but impossible Scrushy will ever pay the total judgment, and the ruling triggers a litigious process to determine how much Scrushy is still worth. Since federal investigators exposed the $2.7 billion fraud in 2003, Scrushy has spent millions fighting criminal and civil lawsuits. When the fraud was exposed, federal prosecutors estimated Scrushy to be worth somewhere between $250 million and $300 million, but it is unclear how much of that wealth is left.
HealthSouth CEO Jay Grinney told the Wall Street Journal that the company would fight Scrushy for every penny it could get from him.
Meanwhile, Scrushy remains in prison in Beaumont, Texas, where he is serving a seven-year sentence for bribing former Alabama Gov. Don Siegleman. Partisans might still wrangle over that conviction in the political arena, but the defendants' legal recourses appear at a dead end. Earlier this year, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals mostly upheld the convictions. Siegleman and Scrushy await re-sentencing.
Many of the same plaintiffs against Scrushy will now focus on Ernst & Young, the accounting firm that missed the $2.7 billion fraud.