Loeffler stock trades after briefings early in coronavirus outbreak draw fire

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler joined Gov. Brian Kemp at the Capitol early this month after qualifying as a candidate to keep her senate seat. Kemp appointed Loeffler after the resignation of Sen. Johnny Isakson. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

Georgia’s newly appointed U.S. senator is under fire for unloading as much as $3.1 million in stocks after participating in a private briefing for senators on the COVID-19 outbreak, which has since caused stocks to plummet.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her husband made 29 stock transactions from Jan. 24 – the day of the briefing – through mid-February. All but two of the transactions were sales, according to the Daily Beast, which broke the story late Thursday.

One of the purchases she made was in Citrix, which is a technology company that offers teleworking software. Much of the American workforce is now logging in from home to avoid interacting with people to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

All told, Loeffler sold between $1.3 million and $3.1 million in stocks; she purchased between $200,002 and $500,000 in stocks, according to the Daily Beast.

Members of Congress are barred from trading to benefit from official information available to them that is not publicly disseminated, and the state Democratic Party and others have called for an investigation into Loeffler. Three other senators, Richard Burr (R-NC), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and James Inhofe (R-OK), are also under scrutiny.

Loeffler was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to the seat after the resignation of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who stepped down because of his declining health. A wealthy business executive, she pledged to fund at least $20 million of her own election campaign this fall, when she will be on the ballot with 20 other candidates from all parties.

Loeffler said Friday that the transactions – which she called “very routine for my portfolio” – were made on her behalf by a third party. She said she didn’t know about them until three weeks later.

“I want to set the record straight: This is a ridiculous & baseless attack,” Loeffler tweeted. “I don’t make investment decisions for my portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband’s knowledge or involvement.”

Loeffler’s husband is Jeffrey Sprecher, who is the chair of the New York Stock Exchange.

Her opponents set to face her in November were quick to accuse Loeffler of cashing in on a global crisis. In Georgia, 13 people have died of COVID-19 as of Friday; 420 Georgians have tested positive for the virus.

“People are losing their jobs, their businesses, their retirements, and even their lives and Kelly Loeffler is profiting off their pain? I’m sickened just thinking about it,” Republican Congressman Doug Collins, who is running against Loeffler, said on Twitter Friday.

Raphael Warnock, a Democrat in the race, had this to say: “As the coronavirus pandemic is busy taking lives and livelihoods, Kelly Loeffler has been busy looking out for herself. Profiting off this disaster is unconscionable. Send me to the senate and I’ll look out for you and your family.”

The Democratic Party of Georgia has also called for an investigation into U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s dealings. Perdue had multiple transactions during the same time period that appear to be equal parts buying and selling, but the federal financial disclosure filings that prompted the scrutiny do not include specific dollar amounts.

Perdue sold between $148,050 and $955,000 in stocks and his purchases were in between $141,043 and $890,000, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Casey Black, Perdue’s spokeswoman, said Friday that the senator has relied on an outside advisor to manage his investments since being elected to the U.S. Senate.

“The Senator is not involved in any day-to-day investment decisions,” Black said in a statement. “Like most Americans, using an outside advisor is how many people manage their retirements and 401ks. Senator Perdue is working around the clock to deal with the coronavirus crisis and help all Georgians make it through these challenging times.”