School of Accountancy hosts Orin Ethics Symposium featuring Theranos whistleblower Tyler Shultz
Tyler Shultz, known for his role as the whistleblower who exposed fraudulent practices at Theranos, spoke to a packed house in Cornell Hall on Friday, October 14, at the 20th annual Orin Ethics Symposium.
Shultz graduated from Stanford with a biology degree and entered the national scene when he revealed the illegal activity in the health technology company. The story has been depicted in a book ("Bad Blood"), a documentary ("The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley"), a podcast and television miniseries ("The Dropout"), and an upcoming film starring Jennifer Lawrence and Adam McKay.
During his keynote address, Shultz shared how the company acquired a $10 billion valuation built on fraud, what his relationship was like with Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes (whom he met through his grandfather, former Secretary of State George Shultz) and what could lead someone to defraud hundreds of employees and investors and thousands of patients. Following the talk, Shultz took questions from the audience.
Hundreds of students and attendees from across campus and the Columbia area attended Shultz's talk. Bush Auditorium and an overflow room in Cornell Hall were at capacity.
Mason Williams, a junior studying accounting, attended the event and appreciated the opportunity to hear from a whistleblower. “It’s really cool that Trulaske hosts these events. I just had an interview yesterday and mentioned that I have the opportunity to attend lectures like this one. It sets me apart from others in my career field.”
The Orin Ethics Symposium is made possible by Richard Orin, BS BA '49, who partnered with the Trulaske College of Business to create it in 2002. The lecture series increases awareness of ethics issues in accountancy, business and law by hosting key figures in business ethics, corporate governance and regulation.
Orin's daughter, Rhonda Orin, and grandson, Eric Weissmann, were in attendance during the symposium on his behalf.
Weissmann, who serves as the director of product planning at Videojet Technologies in Chicago, said, “The three most important things in my grandfather’s life are his family, ethics and the University of Missouri, and this symposium is right in the center of that triangle.”
“Tyler’s talk today was excellent, laid back and his youthfulness allowed those in attendance to connect to his story. When I think about what my grandfather and I wanted to get out of this symposium, this lecture did it. The reality is that every person in that lecture hall, and every person on this campus, will get a job and face small ethical decisions daily, just like Tyler did. Tyler faced them and spoke up, resulting in what we saw. That’s doing the right thing, and I hope the students can see that in his story.”
Following Shultz's lecture, faculty members Elise Bartley and Shannon Breske hosted a Theranos case study session and debrief for students. This hands-on learning activity allowed students to apply what they had learned in the lecture and hear from others in attendance.
Vairam Arunachalam, director of the School of Accountancy, was at Trulaske when the Orin Ethics Symposium began in 2002 and has seen first-hand the positive impact of educating students on professional ethics.
“We had a great turnout, and the message was so impactful and powerful for those in attendance,” Arunachalam said. “In addition to lies, deceit, inflated revenue projections and poor corporate governance being so detrimental to business and society, I think the talk and Q&A drove home the question of how to cope with the stress, anxiety, and loneliness that comes with a whistleblowing expedition. I am sure everyone will remember this event for a long time.”
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In the media:
Theranos whistleblower on the charm of Elizabeth Holmes and the fraud he discovered (Columbia Daily Tribune)
Theranos whistleblower Tyler Shultz speaks at MU (Columbia Missourian)