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Profile: Stephens Inc
Stephens Inc was a participant or observer in the following events:
Stephens Inc logo. [Source: RehabCare]Life Sciences Inc, a New Jersey-based holding company, buys Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a British research company accused of mistreating and torturing animals as part of its research (see 1998). Stephens Inc, an Arkansas investment company, buys HLS’s bank loan and becomes its senior lender. The animal rights organization Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) launches a Web site called StephensKills that is designed to inform animal rights activists “of the cruelty that Stephens Inc invests in as shareholders” in HLS. Activists from Britain and America come to Little Rock, Arkansas, to protest against Stephens, in an action that results in 26 arrests. During the following months, Stephens employees are harassed and the company’s fax machines are jammed. Stephens finally sells its investment in HLS at a loss, while denying that SHAC’s pressure influenced its decision. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005] CEO Warren Stephens says the company had been “aware of the activists, but I don’t think we understood exactly what lengths they would go to.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002]
The American branch of the animal rights organization Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC—see 1998), flush with its recent success against Stephens Inc (see 2001-2002), begins targeting other US companies that do business with the British research firm Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). The SHAC Web site explains, “Rather than protesting [HLS] itself, the SHAC campaign targets secondary targets—those companies that HLS needs so desperately to operate, but that don’t need HLS or the pressure that comes with doing business with them.” SHAC focuses on Marsh Inc, the firm that insures HLS. A February 2002 email to US SHAC members notes that British SHAC members have aggressively targeted Marsh, and reads in part, “Let’s show them that the US is no different and let Marsh know that… we are about to raise the premium on pain.” The email contains a list of March offices, phone and fax numbers, and email and home addresses of employees. The Web site provides maps to Marsh’s 60 American offices, along with a statement announcing that by “hitting” Marsh the group hopes to “attack HLS in a way they could never have predicted nor defend themselves against.” Soon thereafter, Marsh employees are harassed. One receives a letter saying: “You have been targeted for terrorist attack.… If you bail out now, you, your business, and your family will be spared great hassle and humility.” A Marsh executive’s home is doused with red paint. Another executive’s home is emblazoned with the slogans “Puppy Killer” and “We’ll Be Back.” In April 2002, SHAC activists escalate their activities, with a number of them gathering at a Marsh employee’s home in Boston, chanting, “[W]hat comes around goes around… burn his house to the ground,” while a message on the group’s Web site calls the employee, his wife, and two-year-old son “scum.” Twelve SHAC activists are arrested and charged with a variety of crimes, including extortion, stalking, threatening, and conspiracy (all charges will eventually be dropped). In July 2002, SHAC activists smoke-bomb two Seattle high-rises housing Marsh offices, forcing their evacuation. By the end of the year, Marsh drops HLS as a client, and SHAC proclaims victory; on its Web site, SHAC credits “those who smashed windows” as well as “those who held vocal protests outside Marsh offices and homes of executives.… No lawsuit, private investigator, or criminal prosecution prevented this victory. Until HLS is closed we will not apologize, we will not compromise, and we will not relent.” Later, other companies will also stop doing business with HLS after being pressured by SHAC. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
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