U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia defended herself overnight, insisting that both she and her husband had no input in the decision to sell somewhere between $US1.2 ($2) million and $US3.1 ($5) million in stock shortly before the stock market crash that was caused by fears over covid-19. Loeffler’s husband is Jeffrey Sprecher, a longtime Republican donor and chairman of the New York Stock Exchange and they have a combined net worth of roughly $US500 ($866) million.
“I want to set the record straight: This is a ridiculous & baseless attack. 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 tweeted.
Loeffler, a Republican who was appointed by Georgia’s governor in December after Senator Johnny Isakson resigned due to poor health, is one of at least four politicians who are believed to have sold stock before the S&P 500 lost 29 per cent over the past month. It was revealed last night that Republican Senator Richard Burr, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sold as much as $US1.56 ($3) million before things went to shit.
Loeffler and Burr received a closed door briefing along with all Senators on January 24 about the coronavirus threat, long before the broader American public was concerned about covid-19 reaching the country. The experts at the secretive briefing reportedly included CDC Director Robert R. Redfield and Anthony Fauci, one of the White House’s top medical advisors during this crisis.
In February, Senator Loeffler sold stocks like Tencent Holdings Limited, Roku, Inc., Funko, Inc., O’Reilly Automotive, Inc., Exxon Mobil Corporation, Honeywell International Inc., Delta Air Lines, Inc., Caterpillar Inc., and Aflac Incorporated, among others.
The stock sales by Loeffler and Burr only became public because senators are required to make regular financial disclosures, which are published online. Senator Burr voted against the bill that required senators to make these kinds of disclosures. Loeffler hadn’t yet become a senator when the bill passed in 2012.
Loeffler, who was previously the CEO of blockchain company Bakkt, spent February downplaying the threat of the virus and insisting that President Trump was working to keep Americans healthy, something that was simply not true.
“Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on #Coronavirus readiness,” Loeffler tweeted on February 28. “Here’s the truth: @realDonaldTrump & his administration are doing a great job working to keep Americans healthy & safe.”
President Trump previously spent months spreading misinformation about the new coronavirus, insisting that it might just go away by April and lying about how many Americans might eventually contract the disease. Meanwhile, the federal government was sitting on its hands while it was becoming apparent to public health experts who were watching outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, and Iran, that this disease would be everywhere soon.
“Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low,” Trump said on February 26. “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
News outlet The Recount compiled a particularly video of Trump dismissing the threat of the new coronavirus over the past two months:
It’s not clear what kind of financial transactions President Trump may have made over the past few months because he’s refused to release even the most basic information, such as his tax returns.
Senator Loeffler didn’t buy or sell any stocks between the day she took office on January 6 and January 23, according to the Daily Beast. But after the briefing on January 24, Loeffler (or her financial advisors, as she insists) sold a lot of stock, while buying up some stocks that would be very profitable in the event of large-scale lockdowns.
For example, one of the only stocks Loeffler bought during this period was Citrix, a tech company that makes remote-working software. She also purchased stock in tech giant Oracle.
From the Daily Beast:
That first transaction was a sale of stock in the company Resideo Technologies valued at between $US50,001 ($86,616) and $US100,000 ($173,228). 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 $US100,000 ($173,228) and $US250,000 ($433,069) 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.
Many people have called for an investigation into Loeffler and Burr’s financial transactions, including some prominent Democratic politicians like Julian Castro, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama.
“Senators Burr and Loeffler should be investigated by authorities and the Senate Ethics Committee. If the evidence suggests they engaged in insider trading, they should be charged and stand trial,” Castro tweeted after news of the stock sales became public last night.
“Let’s see all the evidence that Burr and Loeffler have to present in their defence,” Shapiro tweeted late Thursday. “Because if they took advantage of insider information on this pandemic while failing to scream from the rooftops about the dangers, the punishments, politically and legally, should be dire.”
At least 14,250 people have tested positive for covid-19 in the U.S., and at least 205 have died, according to an online coronavirus tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University. And if there’s any justice in the world, anyone who conducted insider trading on the threat of covid-19 will face justice before the world devolves any further into chaos.