Georgia U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler just disclosed more stock trades, including shares in retail companies she sold and ones she bought in Dupont, which makes medical supplies, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported.
She and a handful of other Senators, including Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe grabbed headlines for stock sales made after a Senate Intelligence Committee briefing about the pandemic. Sen. Inhofe later explained he did not attend the briefing and that since being in congress, he has divested himself from his stock holdings.
After Sen. Loeffler attended a January 24 closed-door briefing on the COVID-19 outbreak, Loeffler dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars in stocks while also buying up shares in telecommuting software. Loeffler and her representatives have rejected criticism that she used her position in the Senate and access to top information to dump stocks before the market plummeted, saying neither she nor her husband have direct control over their portfolios.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and her husband, Intercontinental Exchange Chairman Jeff Sprecher, disclosed additional stock trades as they faced criticism for dumping shares before the market plummeted over the coronavirus crisis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Tuesday.
Last month, both Loeffler and Sprecher, who is also the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, came under scrutiny for selling hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock before the market’s drop.
The Daily Beast reported last month that after she attended a January 24 closed-door US Senate briefing on the COVID-19 outbreak, Loeffler sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in shares of Resideo Technologies, Comcast, AutoZone, and more before the decline and also bought up shares in Citrix, a company that makes telecommuting software.
On Tuesday, The Journal-Constitution reported that newly disclosed stock transactions from early March involved the sale of retail stocks, which have seen a sharp decline as the industry suffers from the outbreak. Loeffler sold over $70,000 in shares of the retailer Ross on March 4 and 5; $27,000 in shares of TJX Cos., the parent company of TJ Maxx; and over $56,000 in shares of Lululemon, a popular athleisure clothing brand.
At the same time, she purchased over $87,700 in shares of Dupont, a Delaware chemical company that manufactures medical supplies. Such items are now in high demand as the coronavirus outbreak puts immense strain on America’s hospital systems and medical infrastructure, with healthcare workers in desperate need of personal protective equipment.
Loeffler was appointed to the US Senate in December to fill the seat vacated by former Sen. Johnny Isakson, who resigned before the expiration of his term. She’ll run in a special election in November to serve out the rest of Isakson’s term.
Before she became a senator, Loeffler worked as the chief executive of the cryptocurrency company Bakkt and as an executive at the Intercontinental Exchange, which owns big financial-market companies, including the New York Stock Exchange. She and Sprecher are estimated to be worth more than $500 million.
Loeffler and her representatives have said that even though their holdings are not in a blind trust, neither she nor her husband have direct control of their portfolios.
In a Wednesday evening statement to Insider, a spokesperson for Loeffler said that she “filed another Periodic Transaction Report (PTR) and the facts are still the same. These transactions are consistent with historical portfolio activity and include a balanced mix of buys and sells. Her stock portfolio is managed independently by third-party advisors and she is notified, as indicated on the report, after transactions occur.”
The spokesperson added: “Sen. Loeffler continues to operate with integrity and transparency – following both the spirit and the letter of the law. While some will continue to make baseless accusations devoid of facts, Senator Loeffler will continue working to keep Americans safe and provide much-needed relief to Georgia families and businesses impacted by COVID-19.”
The Journal-Constitution reported Loeffler also sold off shares in late February and early March in companies that could benefit from the coronavirus outbreak causing people to work remotely, including stock in Facebook and DocuSign, a platform that enables remote signing of documents.
But the timing of the transactions, coupled with Loeffler seemingly downplaying the threat of the COVID-19, has continued to raise questions as to whether she used her position as a senator and her access to detailed information about the crisis to financially benefit herself by selling off stocks before they plummeted in value.
On February 27, days before the early March transactions, Loeffler tweeted: “FACT: America is doing an incredible job working to keep its citizens safe and healthy in the wake of the #coronavirus outbreak. ALSO FACT: Democrats are intentionally misleading the American public and it’s dangerous.”
The next day she wrote from her campaign Twitter account: “Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on #Coronavirus readiness.” And on March 10, after she sold off all the retail shares, she tweeted that the “the consumer is strong, the economy is strong, & jobs are growing.”
Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, who serves as chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee and receives frequent classified intelligence briefings, has also come under serious scrutiny for dumping more than $1 million in stock holdings and sounding the alarm over the COVID-19 outbreak in private while reassuring the public that the US government had a handle on the situation.
On March 19, ProPublica reported that Burr sold up to $1.72 million in stocks in 33 separate transactions. While Burr said he made his investment decisions based on publicly available information, including from CNBC, his action sparked criticism and calls for him to be investigated from both sides of the aisle.
Ten days later, CNN reported that the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission reached out to Burr as part of the early stages of an investigation into transactions by at least one member of Congress who sold large amounts of stock from their portfolios ahead of the market’s drop.
While an attorney for Burr told CNN that he “welcomes a thorough review of the facts” and will cooperate with any inquiries into his trading, the FBI and SEC are not yet confirmed to have reached out to the offices of any other Senators besides Burr, including Loeffler, to seek information.
While the investigation is in its preliminary stages, some critics say Burr’s and Loeffler’s actions could violate the 2012 STOCK Act, which prohibits members of Congress from making stock trades based on nonpublic information they glean in their jobs as elected officials.