Stephens' Interest at Issue in Sorensen Case

Stephens Inc. of Little Rock, or possibly some related business entity, is - or was - an investor in Stephen L. LaFrance Holdings Inc., the company that owns the USA Drug pharmacy chain.

Filings in the criminal and civil cases against former USA Drug Vice President Garret Sorensen suggest that part of his defense hinges on what attorney Floyd Clardy called "a culture at USA Drug of operating side businesses that fed off USA Drug" - a culture that may have been of concern to Stephens representatives.

Clardy, of Dallas, and Ted Boswell of Bryant are defending Sorensen against a 33-count federal indictment. They tried to gain access to minutes of USA Drug board meetings from October 2005 to October 2007, during which time Stephens representative Kevin Wilcox was a director of USA Drug. (Their request for the documents was denied.)

In a deposition taken Nov. 7, the drugstore owner's son, Jason LaFrance, was repeatedly asked whether the Stephens organization expressed any "concern" or "displeasure" with "self-dealing" by USA principals.

LaFrance's attorneys objected to the line of questioning by Pat James, the Little Rock lawyer who is defending Sorensen in a civil case filed by LaFrance Holdings.

The extent of the Stephens interest is not public record, and spokesman Frank Thomas said the company would have no comment.