Investment Firm And Arkansas' Top Securities Regulator At Odds

Dec 2, 2013

Heath Abshure, left, and the Little Rock headquarters of Stephens Inc.
Credit Arkansas Business

Arkansas’ largest investment firm and the state’s top securities regulator are firing accusations back and forth alleging ethics violations.

Stephens Inc. is accusing Arkansas Securities Commissioner Heath Abshure of illegally steering more than $170,000 to his "favorite charities" and of retaliating when Stephens refused to make a similar donation while negotiating a recent settlement.

Arkansas Business has exclusive details in this week’s issue:

“That’s absolutely insane,” Abshure said of the allegations included in a complaint Stephens filed last month with the Arkansas Ethics Commission.

Abshure denied, sometimes in salty language, any ethical or legal breach. Instead, he questioned the motives of executives at the state’s dominant investment firm, which agreed in August to pay a $25,000 fine for failing to supervise agents who sold certain exchange-traded funds in 2008-09.

“I don’t think Stephens gives a rat’s ass where I send money from my other settlements,” Abshure said in an interview with Arkansas Business. “They’ve decided to attack me personally because we came after them.”

Abshure also suggested that Stephens might be trying to punish him for being “so vocal in my critique” of the investment industry’s self-regulating organization, FINRA, during his recent term as president of the North American Securities Administrators Association. (See sidebar here.)

But David Knight, the Stephens Inc. general counsel who filed the ethics complaint, said his issues with Abshure were strictly professional. “Here he was exhibiting the same conflicts of interest that he’s supposed to be protecting the public against,” Knight said. “Nothing personal.”

You can read the full story here or listen to an interview with Arkansas Business Editor Gwen  Moritz above.