Sen. Loeffler sells low
Commentary,  Politics

After insider trading fight, Sen. Loeffler sells low

Former Bakkt CEO and current Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler blames ‘baseless attacks from political adversaries and the media’ for divesting stock holdings in a down market

Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler announced on April 8 that she and her husband were selling all of their stock holdings. 

The Republican, who stepped down as CEO of cryptocurrency derivatives platform Bakkt to take up the appointment to a Senate seat, made the announcement following weeks of accusations of using her position for insider trading

The issue arose on March 20, when reports broke that Sen. Loeffler had bought between $100,000 and $250,000 of stock in Citrix, a company that specializes in teleworking software, following a closed Senate coronavirus briefing on Jan. 24. As social distancing began forcing the entire country to telework, Citrix’s stock rose 13% between the two dates. 

She also sold $1 million worth of other stocks that tanked shortly after the briefing. The scandal also swept up Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Sen. Daniel Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.)

Sen. Loeffler sells low

In an April 8 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), Sen. Loeffler denied ever having traded based on insider information. But, she said, “to end the distraction, my family will divest from individual stocks.”

Decrying “baseless attacks from political adversaries and the media,” she added that neither she nor her family had ever “used any confidential information I received while performing my Senate duties as a means of making a private profit.”

Even if she did, the pounding her net worth is taking from selling when the Dow is down nearly 17% made it a bad bargain.

Too rich to bother 

As for the too-timely stock purchases, Sen. Loeffler’s response to her first taste of national press coverage following her appointment by the governor of Georgia boiled down to: “I’m too rich to know what I’m investing in.”

She is married to Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of Bakkt’s parent company, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE). He is reportedly worth $500 million. Her own net worth is high enough to allow her to put $20 million into her November special election campaign fund.

“My family’s investments are managed by third-party advisers at Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Sepio Capital and Wells Fargo,” she wrote in the WSJ, adding that “these professionals” did the buying and selling without her and her husband’s involvement. The couple will close these managed account and switch to mutual funds and exchange traded funds, she added in the op-ed. 

All of this will no doubt go over well in Georgia, where the number of workers seeking unemployment benefits last week “surged to more than 390,000,” according to an April 9 article by the Associated Press.

It quoted Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler as saying, the state “‘basically did almost four times as many claims in one week than we did in the worst month of the recession’ of 2008.”

But, coronavirus!

In an April 8 tweet linked to the Wall Street Journal article, Sen. Loeffler said “I’m not doing this because I have to. I’m doing it to move beyond the distraction and put the focus back on the essential work we must all do to defeat the coronavirus.”

While the tweet garnered 464 Likes, every single one of the responses were negative, in the “My felony is a distraction!” vein. Of course, many of them came from out-of-state, self-described liberals, so take that with a large grain of salt.

On the future scandal front, did we mention that Sen. Loeffler was appointed to the Senate Agriculture Committee, which oversees the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which in turn oversees Bakkt and ICE?

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Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus editor-in-chief, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about incentive travel. He has also covered consumer and employee engagement, small business, the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson has put some 401k money into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.