Sen. Kelly Loeffler said Wednesday that she will liquidate her stock holdings amid scrutiny of her trades following a briefing for senators earlier this year on the threat of coronavirus.
Loeffler, R-Ga., in a statement Wednesday, announced the liquidation of all of her and her husband’s holdings, in conjunction with legal counsel, in managed accounts. Critics have suggested Loeffler may have engaged in insider trading based on her knowledge about the coronavirus crisis -- an accusation she has denied.
“Amid this health crisis, the temptation to circulate lies and misinformation is too great for the media and my political opponents,” Loeffler said. “That is why I’m taking steps to remove this temptation so that we can turn our focus back to where it belongs: on combating COVID-19 and restoring our country to health and economic recovery.”
News stories surfaced last month revealing that Loeffler and her husband sold stock on Jan. 24, the same day she sat in on a closed-door coronavirus briefing as a member of the Senate Health Committee with the Trump administration and with Dr. Anthony Fauci in attendance.
Loeffler -- who has said her accounts were managed by outside investment advisors -- defended herself Wednesday.
“Let me be clear: I do not have to do this,” Loeffler said. “I’ve done everything at or above the requirements for complying with the STOCK Act, SEC regulations, Senate Ethics rules, and US law, and of course, will continue to do so.”
She said the individual stock and options holdings in these managed accounts will be reinvested into exchange-traded funds and mutual funds.
She added: “I’m doing this because this transparency is being abused for political gain, and the steps I’ve taken to distance myself from these accounts are being ignored.”
Loeffler’s husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is the CEO of Intercontinental Exchange Inc. and chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. According to her office, the couple has managed significant financial services businesses at “the highest levels of compliance” for nearly two decades.
Loeffler and her husband, upon her Senate appointment, hired separate legal counsel to advise on and establish compliance with Senate Ethics rules. The couple relies on third-party investment managers to plan their investment strategy and implement trades, and they are notified of securities transactions after they occur, according to her office.
“I left the private sector to serve the people of Georgia, not make a profit, and in fact donate my Senate pay to Georgia charities,” Loeffler said.
Loeffler went on to explain that her family’s investments have long been managed by outside investment advisers at Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Sepio Capital, and Wells Fargo.
“They make their investment decisions for our accounts, including buying and selling securities like stocks and options —without our input, direction or knowledge,” Loeffler said, maintaining that her portfolios are managed by third-party advisers who notify her of decisions “after transactions occur.”
Loeffler’s statement comes as her financial transactions and stock trades have come under fire amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The Daily Beast first reported the stock trades, which took place as the market began its downfall over coronavirus.
“This story was manufactured by a left-wing website, never fact-checked and used as a weapon by the media and my political opponents as a baseless attack,” Loeffler said Wednesday. “There is no truth to any of it.”
She added: “For my over-20-year career in the financial services industry—as well as since I’ve been in the Senate—I have done everything according to the spirit and the letter of the law, and have been recognized for my integrity, professionalism and hard work.”
Loeffler went on to say that she “won’t let politics get in the way of public service and keeping our state and our country strong.”
Loeffler is not the only senator whose financial transactions have come under the microscope.
The Justice Department is reportedly investigating the series of stock transactions made by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C.
The investigation, according to the report, is still in its early stages and is being done in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The FBI has reportedly reached out to Burr for information.
Both the Justice Department and the SEC declined to confirm the existence of the reported probe.
Burr’s attorney told Fox News last month that the senator will cooperate with any “inquiry” or ethics review necessary, while maintaining that any review “will establish that his actions were appropriate.”
Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., also have been criticized for their pre-coronavirus pandemic stock sales.