Inaugural business ethics speaker series to feature Tyler Shultz, former Theranos employee

Tyler Shultz will speak about business ethics after his experience with Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. Photo courtesy of fraudmagazine.com.  

OLIVIA KLAFTA | STAFF REPORTER | oklafta@butler.edu 

At age 23, Tyler Shultz was at the bottom of the corporate ladder at Theranos, a healthcare technology start-up created by American businesswoman Elizabeth Holmes. Theranos and Holmes claimed to have created Edison, a technology that could do a wide-range of laboratory tests with just a few drops of blood. 

While Shultz was initially excited to work there, he quickly learned that Theranos’ technology and company was fraudulent. Their technology rarely provided accurate or reliable results. Shultz eventually became a whistleblower, someone that exposes illegal or unethical practices, and tipped off the Wall Street Journal and New York’s public health lab. 

Four years later, Shultz will be the inaugural keynote speaker for the Lacy School of Business’ Business Ethics Speaker Series, which will premiere on Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. in Schrott Center for the Arts. Shultz will begin the night with a presentation, followed by a 15 minute question and answer session for the general audience. Students currently enrolled in business ethics will have access to a special post-show question and answer. The free event will also count as a Butler Cultural Requirement.

Hilary Buttrick, associate professor of business law and LSB associate dean, will moderate the speaker series. Buttrick said the series aims to mix students’ formal training with real-life experiences so they can apply ethical business practices in the real world. 

“I want students to recognize that they have the power and obligation to do the right thing, even when they’re at the very bottom of the corporate ladder,” Buttrick said. “It is within your power to stand up and do the right thing.”

After exposing Theranos’ wrongdoings, Shultz started his own company, Flux Biosciences. He made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 healthcare list in 2017 and his company was a finalist for Forbes’ $500,000 Global Change the World Competition. 

Laura Stephan Ryan, lecturer of law and ethics, said that hearing Shultz’ story will give students an opportunity to envision their futures as ethical professionals. 

“A lot of the times we wish there was a one size fits all solution to the problems that we face, but they are so much more complex than that,” Stephan Ryan said. “So hearing someone who has lived it be able to talk about it is such a wonderful opportunity.” 

Elizabeth Jira, a sophomore exploratory business major, is currently in Stephan Ryan’s business ethics class. She said they learned about Theranos in class and are watching “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley,” the documentary about Holmes’ rise and fall. 

“I think with ethics a lot of people are kind of like, ‘I know the difference between right and wrong so why am I taking this,’” Jira said. “This kind of shows that it actually happens in the real world and it’s harder to be ethical than you think it is. Tyler Shultz really took a gamble but it paid off in the end.” 

Students in Stephan Ryan’s business ethics class learn about the difference between law and ethics, and how morals play into the equation.  

“We learn about morality, what does it mean to say that something’s good or something’s bad, how do we progress in our own moral decision making through time as we get older and have different experiences through life,” Stephan Ryan said. 

Sophomore finance major Ethan Lehman heard about the speaker series through the honors program and his organizational behavior class. 

“She [my professor] was talking about the situation, relating it to ethics and how you have to manage ethics and also relationships,” Lehman said. “I’ve heard about it and definitely want to go.”

In June of 2018, Holmes and former Theranos president Ramesh Balwani were indicted with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of actual wire fraud. Holmes will be on trial in federal court this August and faces up to 20 years in prison and millions in fines. 

The inaugural event is sponsored by Old National Bank, which was named one of the 2019 World’s Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere for the eighth year in a row.

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