The Senate’s newest member sold off seven figures’ worth of stock holdings in the days and weeks after a private, all-senators meeting on the novel coronavirus that subsequently hammered U.S. equities.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) reported the first sale of stock jointly owned by her and her husband on Jan. 24, the very day that her committee, the Senate Health Committee, hosted a private, all-senators briefing from administration officials, including the CDC director and Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on the coronavirus.
“Appreciate today’s briefing from the President’s top health officials on the novel coronavirus outbreak,” she tweeted about the briefing at the time.
That first transaction was a sale of stock in the company Resideo Technologies valued at between $50,001 and $100,000. The company’s stock price has fallen by more than half since then, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average overall has shed approximately 10,000 points, dropping about a third of its value.
It was the first of 29 stock transactions that Loeffler and her husband made through mid-February, all but two of which were sales. One of Loeffler’s two purchases was stock worth between $100,000 and $250,000 in Citrix, a technology company that offers teleworking software and which has seen a small bump in its stock price since Loeffler bought in as a result of coronavirus-induced market turmoil.
Loeffler’s office did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast on the transactions and whether they were prompted or informed by information shared at that late January briefing. It’s illegal for members of Congress to trade on non-public information gleaned through their official duties.
Late Thursday night, she did offer a statement, tweeting: “This is a ridiculous and baseless attack. I do not make investment decisions for my portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband’s knowledge or involvement.
“As confirmed in the periodic transaction report to Senate Ethics, I was informed of these purchases and sales on February 16, 2020—three weeks after they were made.”
In the weeks after her spate of stock trades, Loeffler sought to downplay the public-health and financial threats posed by the coronavirus.
“Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on #Coronavirus readiness,” she tweeted on Feb. 28. “Here’s the truth: @realDonaldTrump & his administration are doing a great job working to keep Americans healthy & safe.”
“Concerned about #coronavirus?” she tweeted on March 10. “Remember this: The consumer is strong, the economy is strong, & jobs are growing, which puts us in the best economic position to tackle #COVID19 & keep Americans safe.”
Loeffler is the second known senator to sell off large stock holdings between that Jan. 24 briefing and the dramatic drop in stock-market indices over the last week. The Center for Responsive Politics reported on Thursday that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, sold between $500,000 and $1.5 million in stock in February, shortly before markets tanked—and before Burr privately warned of the havoc that coronavirus was poised to wreak.
Burr lashed out at National Public Radio on Thursday over its report revealing those private comments in a series of tweets that did not mention his stock trades. Burr was one of just one of three senators who voted against legislation in 2012 banning so-called congressional insider trading.
As it happens, Burr and Loeffler sat next to each other on the Senate floor during the chamber’s impeachment trial in January.
Loeffler assumed office on Jan. 6 after having been appointed to the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson. Between then and Jan. 23, she did not report a single stock transaction from accounts owned by her individually or by her and her husband jointly.
Between Jan. 24 and Feb. 14, by contrast, Loeffler reported selling stock jointly owned with her husband worth between $1,275,000 and $3,100,000, according to transaction reports filed with Senate ethics officials. On Feb. 14, she also purchased the Citrix stock and another $100,000 to $250,000 in technology company Oracle, which has seen its share price decline by more than 18 percent since then.
The 15 stocks that Loeffler reported selling have lost more than a third of their value, on average, since she reported offloading them. She initially reported many of the transactions as sales of stock owned by her husband. Last week she amended the filing to note that most of them were jointly owned.
The full scope of Loeffler’s portfolio and its particular holdings is not yet known. Senators are required to regularly disclose that information, but in January she requested an extension from Senate ethics officials. A full accounting of her finances will not be public until May.
When Loeffler assumed office, she immediately became the wealthiest member of Congress. The Atlanta businesswoman, whose husband is the chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, has a fortune estimated at $500 million.
From the beginning of her tenure, she has faced scrutiny over potential conflicts of interest. Her position on a Senate subcommittee that oversees futures markets “gives Kelly Loeffler a direct position in overseeing her and her husband’s financial enterprises,” Craig Holman, lobbyist for the ethics group Public Citizen, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution in February. “I find it utterly irresponsible the Senate would choose to put Loeffler on that committee, given her conflicts of interest.”
Unlike other senators, Loeffler’s finances are directly tied to her electoral fate. She has pledged to spend $20 million on her bid to hold on to her seat when she faces voters for the first time this November.