309Write - New disclosure reveals Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her husband dumped retail stock and bought shares in a company that manufacturers medical supplies

Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and her husband, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) Chairman Jeff Sprecher, disclosed additional stock trades as they face criticism for dumping stock before the market plummeted during the coronavirus crisis, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Tuesday night,

Last month, both Loeffler and Sprecher, the Chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, came under scrutiny for selling hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock before the market plummeted due to the economic devastation caused by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. 

 The Daily Beast reported last month that after attending a January 24 closed-door US Senate briefing on the COVID-19 outbreak, Loeffler sold hundreds of thousands in shares in Resideo Technologies, Comcast, Autozone, and more, before the decline in the market while also buying 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 as a whole 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 Companies, 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-based chemical company that manufactures medical supplies, which 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 2019 to fill the seat vacated by former Sen. Jonny Isakson, who resigned before the expiration of his term in 2020. She'll run in a special election to serve out the rest of Isakson's full term this November. 

Before being elected to the Senate, Loeffler worked as the chief executive of cryptocurrency company Bakkt and as an executive at ICE, 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 maintained that even though their holdings are not in a blind trust, neither she or her husband have direct control of their portfolios.

In a March 20 statement to Insider, a spokesperson for Loeffler said that "investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without her or her husband's knowledge or involvement" and said "as confirmed in the periodic transaction report to Senate Ethics, Senator Loeffler was informed of these purchases and sales on February 16, 2020- three weeks after they were made."

And as the Journal-Constitution noted, Loeffler also sold off shares in companies that could be poised to benefit from the coronavirus outbreak moving people to work remotely in late February and early March, including selling shares 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 have continued to raise questions as to whether she used her position as an elected official and her access to detailed information about the crisis to financially benefit herself by selling off stocks before they plummeted in value. 

Days before the early March transactions on February 27, 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."

Another Republican Senator, 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 millions in stock holdings and sounding the alarm over the COVID 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 among 33 separate transactions. While Burr claimed he made his investment decisions based on publicly-available information, including by watching 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 US Senators who sold large amounts of stock from their portfolios ahead of the market's drop.

 

While the investigation is still in its preliminary stages, some critics charge that Burr and Loeffler's actions could violate the 2012 STOCK Act, which officially prohibits members of Congress to make stock trades based on non-public information they glean in their jobs as elected officials. 

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