Sen. Loeffler says she'll sell off all individual stocks amid scrutiny during coronavirus spread

Nicholas Wu

Amid scrutiny of her stock trades by federal regulators and a tightening Georgia primary race, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., announced Wednesday in an op-ed she and her husband would liquidate their holdings in individual stocks and would move into exchange-traded funds and mutual funds. 

" I will report these exiting transactions in the periodic transaction report I file later this month," Loeffler wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, calling her trades a "distraction" and saying she never traded on confidential information.

Loeffler and her husband Jeffrey Sprecher, who chairs the New York Stock Exchange, have faced criticism for their sales of millions of dollars worth of stocks before the coronavirus pandemic worsened and as senators were receiving closed-door briefings on the potential impact of the virus. 

On Feb. 14, for example, Loeffler, who has an estimated net worth of $500 million, sold between $250,001 and $500,000 worth of stock in Exxon Mobil from an account owned jointly with her husband. The value of Exxon stock has plummeted as the pandemic worsened, from a high of about $70.90 at the beginning of the year, to about $42 on Wednesday.

Her trades, Loeffler said in a statement, had been used by the "media and my political opponents as a baseless attack." 

Several other senators, including Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., drew scrutiny for similar trades. Burr said he made his sales off "public news reports," and Feinstein said her assets were in a blind trust.  

Loeffler said in her op-ed neither she nor her husband made investment decisions, instead letting advisors at Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Sepio Capital, and Wells Fargo manage her accounts.

"As longtime executives at a Fortune 500 financial-services firm, my husband and I put this arrangement in place to insulate ourselves and our colleagues from these sorts of unfounded accusations," she wrote. 

"All of the individual stock and options holdings in these managed accounts will be liquidated by the investment managers and the proceeds will be reinvested into ETFs and mutual funds," she said in a statement. 

More:Senators sold stocks before coronavirus sank the markets: what we know

More:Justice Department launches inquiry of lawmakers' stock sales before coronavirus market slide

Loeffler, who was appointed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, earlier this year, faces a tough primary race against Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga. Collins' Senate campaign touted a poll that they said showed Collins leading Loeffler by 23 percentage points. Voters will not go to the polls until a special Senate election on Nov. 3. 

Stock prices rose Wednesday as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., dropped out of the presidential race and amid hopes that coronavirus cases would start to fall. The rise in stock prices could mean that Loeffler's liquidation of her stock positions could be profitable if a recession occurs and drives stock prices down, an event some economists and experts believe is likely.