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U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, disclosed more than $1.4 million additional stock purchases and sales while under fire for allegations of insider trading, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Loeffler is one of the senators criticized for selling off millions of dollars of stock immediately following a senators-only briefing on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic in late January. It was before the severity of the pandemic had reached the public knowledge.
Her husband, Jeff Sprecher, is the CEO of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange. Together they sold shares in retail stores, which have closed during the pandemic, and bought shares in DuPont de Nemours, which is a major supplier of personal protective gear used at hospitals.
Loeffler sells retail store, ICE shares
Loeffler and Sprecher sold $845,557 in stock from 13 companies that included retail stores and purchased $590,557 in stock from six other companies, per the AJC and SEC transaction report.
They dropped $70,958 in stock from Ross and TJX Cos, which runs T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, per AJC. Stock prices dropped for those retailers, but gained again after the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus deal was passed. They also dropped more than $56,000 in stock for Lululemon.
The most problematic in the public perception, per the AJC, is the $18.7 million in sales of ICE stock in three separate deals. Loeffler’s campaign said it was prearranged and part of the compensation package for her and her husband. They used employee options to buy it discounted, then sold it, they said per AJC, to pay taxes, cover transaction costs and produce “liquidity.”
Buying stock in PPE provider
The transactions include $206,774 in four purchased shares of DuPont on Feb. 28, March 2, 3 and 10. The company is supplying the PPE medical experts need at hospitals to protect themselves from the coronavirus while they treat patients.
California and New York were the first states to issue stay at home orders and did it beginning March 19. All of Loeffler’s supplied transactions are from the days before the NBA suspended its season, the first domino in a long list of cancellations and postponements that have shaken the economy. They came while President Donald Trump downplayed the disease and its impact in the country.
Spokeswoman: Loeffler lives by ‘letter and spirit of law’
The STOCK Act, which went into effect in 2012, makes it illegal for senators to use inside information for financial gain. Loeffler and a handful of other senators are under fire for potentially doing so after their Jan. 24 private meeting about the coronavirus in the United States. She posted about the meeting on Twitter.
Kerry Rom, a spokeswoman for Loeffler, told the AJC:
“Sen. Loeffler came to Washington on a promise to be a different kind of elected official,” Rom said. “She holds herself to high standards of ethics and transparency, including acting in accordance with both the letter and spirit of the law, which she has done at every step of her time in the Senate and in her lengthy career in financial services.”
When it first went public, Loeffler, who was sworn in this year, said her investment decisions are made by third-party advisers without her or her husband’s knowledge.
Not all of the disclosed sales fit nicely with insider knowledge of the market, per the AJC. The couple sold shares in Facebook and DocuSign, companies that would presumably be doing well given people are being asked to stay home.
Justice Dept. investigates insider trading
The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have started to investigate stock transactions of senators done before the market dropped while companies took precautions against the coronavirus, CNN reported Monday.
The FBI has reached out to at least one senator, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), per CNN. Burr, Loeffler and other senators have come under fire from the public for potential insider trading. CNN reports it is “routine” for the FBI and SEC to review stock trades when there are public questions about the moves.
To prove insider trading, prosecutors must show they made the transactions based on non-public and confidential information. Beyond legal ramifications, lawmakers have to be concerned about constituents, who they are paid to work for, and how they might vote in an election.
Loeffler has not been contacted by the FBI, CNN reported. The questions over insider trading, even if not proven, have people questioning why senators should be allowed to buy and sells stocks at all.
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