Sen, Kelly Loeffler Bakkt stock sales
Commentary,  People,  Politics,  Regulation

Sen. Loeffler Bakkt into corner by ‘timely’ stock sales

The former CEO of the Bakkt cryptocurrency exchange sold at least $1 million in stocks after a private senate briefing on coronavirus made clear a market-tanking pandemic was coming

It is “ridiculous” to think that former Bakkt CEO and current Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) would know that she began selling more than $1 million worth of stock beginning the same day a private senatorial briefing on coronavirus made clear they would soon tank. 

And utterly “baseless” to think that it could have anything to do with her buying between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of stock in Citrix, a company that specializes in teleworking software. It’s stock has risen 13% since the Senate coronavirus briefing on Jan. 24. 

Of course her “[i]nvestment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband’s knowledge or involvement.” 

Really, whose aren’t?

Insider trading or rich-person reality?

First reported by the Daily Beast, most of Loeffler’s timely stock sales were entered into financial disclosure forms on Feb. 7 as being in her husband’s name. On March 12, she filed an amended financial disclosure form listing them as joint transactions with her husband.

She later tweeted, “I was informed of these purchases and sales on 02/16/2020—three weeks after they were made.”

Loeffler stepped down as head of the cryptocurrency exchange and would-be consumer payments app developer Bakkt after being appointed to a vacant Senate seat by the governor of Georgia in early December. 

That was widely seen as a win for the cryptocurrency industry, which gained a knowledgeable voice in upper house of Congress. Loeffler was ranked No. 13 on the Modern Consensus 100 Most Influential People in Crypto 2020 list.

She is married to Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE)—the owner of Bakkt and the New York Stock Exchange. The couple is reportedly worth at least $500 million, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Loeffler also faced controversy after she was assigned to the Senate Agriculture Committee, which oversees the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)—which in turn oversees Bakkt and ICE.

The same bad publicity storm swept up Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who on Feb. 13 sold as much as $1.7 million in stocks that have since seen substantial declines in market value. Sen. Daniel Inhofe (R-Okla) also sold as much as $400,000 in stock in that timeframe.

Of course, the oh-so-timely sale of stock has become a bipartisan issue: Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her husband (D-Calif.) sold between $1.5 million and $6 million before the pandemic panic, according to the New York Times.

One percenter

To be fair, people as wealthy as Loeffler rarely make their own day-to-day investment decisions. And, 14 of the transactions reported were under $50,000, and nearly half of those under $15,000. 

However, Loeffler is facing a tough election in November to defend her seat, and is likely to be challenged by a congressman who was President Donald Trump’s first choice for the seat. 

So, getting her first taste of post-appointment national publicity as being too rich to know how she was spending between $1 million and $3 million probably won’t go over well in a state where more than one in seven residents live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

That’s certainly the opinion of Preet Bharara, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. His Twitter comment: “Welcome to private life, Senator.”

It kind of reminds us of the time the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wasn’t able to tell reporters how many homes he and his wealthy wife Cindy owned. (It was seven.)

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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.