Kelly Loeffler: Republican senator to liquidate all individual stocks after coronavirus trading controversy

'I’m not doing this because I have to. I'm doing it to move beyond the distraction'

Griffin Connolly
Wednesday 08 April 2020 20:51 BST
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Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler and her husband plan to liquidate their individual stock shares following weeks of negative press surrounding the freshman Republican's trading activity before the coronavirus pandemic sent world trading markets plummeting last month.

"I’m not doing this because I have to. I'm doing it to move beyond the distraction and put the focus back on the essential work we must all do to defeat the coronavirus," Ms Loeffler tweeted Wednesday, linking to a Wall Street Journal op-ed she authored with the headline "I Never Traded on Confidential Coronavirus Information."

Ms Loeffler has previously denied accusations that she engaged in insider trading after it was reported in March she had sold more than $20m in stock since being briefed behind closed doors on the coronavirus crisis on 24 January, arguing that her portfolio is "managed independently by third-party advisors and she is notified, as indicated on the report, after transactions occur."

Most of the shed stocks — $18.7m worth — were in Intercontinental Exchange, a trading group that owns the New York Stock Exchange where Ms Loeffler's husband, Jeff Sprecher, is CEO. Ms Loeffler and her husband's financial advisers sold off that stock as part of a pre-planned transaction after they initially bought the stocks at a lower price, a normal process by which many top executives at Fortune 500 companies are compensated.

Ms Loeffler and her husband have asked their financial advisers to convert their individual stocks into mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, the senator wrote in her op-ed.

The 2012 STOCK Act prohibits members of Congress and other government employees from using non-public information for private profit, and wraps such prohibitions into other legal language pertaining to insider trading.

But lawmakers are still allowed to own stocks in individual companies after lawmakers defeated an amendment to the STOCK Act from Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown that would have banned such trading.

Mr Brown has re-introduced his amendment in each of the last two Congresses.

“We have the privilege of holding these jobs and we are here to serve, not to bloat our bank accounts,” Mr Brown said in a statement to The Independent. “The Ban Conflicting Trading Act would prohibit Members of Congress from trading stocks for personal gain. It is much needed legislation to send a strong message to the American people that we are committed to upholding the highest ethical standards and not motivated by benefiting financially.”

In addition to Ms Loeffler, Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Dianne Feinstein of California, and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma have also received scrutiny for market transactions on their financial disclosure forms during roughly the same time period.

Ms Loeffler is up for election this November after she was appointed in January by Governor Brian Kemp to replace former Georgia GOP Senator Johnny Isakson, who resigned over health issues.

A recent poll commissioned by Ms Loeffler's chief Republican rival, Congressman Doug Collins, shows Mr Collins soundly leading the senator in Georgia's all-party special election. Internal campaign polls, however, tend to favor the candidates who commission them.

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