by Max Brantley
A Russellville firm frequently cited as having experienced a big increase in state business says adamantly that they have done no wrong and aren't the source of the information.
Robert Keenan, chief executive of St. Bernard Financial Services in Russellville, reiterates that he doesn't believe the charge relates to Steele Stephens, one of the firm's representatives, or his firm. "He assures me it wasn't him and I believe him and trust him." Keenan said. Stephens was at work today and Keenan said they'd talked Saturday night after news of Shoffner's arrest "shocked" them both.
"We'll find out eventually if he's lying to me, but I don't think so."
Keenan said the identify of the person paying Shoffner ultimately should be revealed because, even if the person is given immunity from federal prosecution, the person should lose his or her securities license. "If it was one of my employees, I'd let him go for not reporting it." He added, "I can't wait to find out who it is. We're getting bombarded up here with people who thinks it's us and it's not."
Keenan said the timeline in the federal charge didn't match Stephens' record with St. Bernard because he didn't go to work there until late 2009 or so. He acknowledged that his firm had increased its share of state business substantially, but he continued to insist as he has all along it's because of lower commissions and better service. He continues, too, to take sharp exception with Joint Audit's evaluation of his firm's record on state business, scoffing particularly at an auditor's comment at one of the hearings that investment firms should be better able to predict future interest rates. Auditors claimed that the state lost money because of early redemption of some bonds, an assessment Keenan has challenged.