Georgia senators' coronavirus stock trades: What we know

Perdue cleared of insider trading despite significant investing activity: Gasparino

FOX Business’ Charlie Gasparino provides insight into the markets and the Senate runoff races in Georgia.

In the bloody battle for Georgia's two Senate seats and ultimately Senate control, Democrats have been hammering Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler over their conveniently timed stock trades early in the pandemic.

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Perdue is facing off against Democrat Jon Ossoff and Loeffler will have to fend off a challenge from Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock.

While Ossoff and Warnock have said the senators profited off the pandemic with information they learned in private briefings, Perdue and Loeffler and maintain they've done nothing wrong.

Here's what we know about the Georgia senators' stock trades:

Kelly Loeffler 

Loeffler and her husband’s net worth is estimated at more than $500 million.

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Loeffler and her husband Jeff Sprecher, chairman of the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange, sold millions of dollars worth of stock from late January through mid-February, including transactions in shares later affected by the global pandemic.

Loeffler attended a closed-door coronavirus briefing on Jan. 24 that warned of the impending devastation. She sold stock that same day, but has said her stock trades were made by a third-party financial adviser.

Between Jan. 24 and Feb. 14, Loeffler and Sprecher made more than 20 stock sales between $1.275 million and $3.1 million. They also bought stock in two companies, one of which was Citrix which produces teleworking software.

Between late February and mid-March, Loeffler sold more than $18.7 million in stock in the Intercontinental Exchange, which owns the New York Stock Exchange, in three separate deals. Loeffler is a former executive at the company and her husband is the CEO.

On March 20, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint asking the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate Loeffler and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. Another watchdog group filed complaints against those senators and  Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

The CREW complaint alleged Loeffler violated insider trading laws and the STOCK Act, which bars members of Congress from trading based on non-public information they receive.

After criticism, in April, Loeffler announced the liquidation of all of her and her husband’s holdings, in conjunction with legal counsel, in managed accounts.

She said the individual stock and options holdings in these managed accounts will be reinvested into exchange-traded funds and mutual funds.

She said: “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 campaign communications director Stephen Lawson said the senator lost $1.3 million in the liquidation of her stocks.

The Senate Ethics Committee and the Justice Department have dropped their investigations into Loeffler’s stock trades.

“The Senate Ethics Committee has come to the exact same conclusion as the U.S. Department of Justice: Senator Loeffler did absolutely nothing wrong and has been completely exonerated,” a Loeffler representative said in a statement.

In the Georgia Senate debate last week, Warnock said that Loeffler, while in office, "has been focused on the same thing she has been focused on her whole life: herself." He accused the senator of having profited millions off the pandemic.

Loeffler said she had been "completely exonerated" by Ethics, DOJ and SEC investigations and accusations otherwise are "lies" from the media and Democrats.

David Perdue 

According to a recent New York Times report, Perdue, a former Fortune 500 CEO, is one of the most prolific traders in the Senate, making 2,596 trades in the six years of his first term.

But as for his early coronavirus trades, Perdue did not attend the January closed-door briefing that led other senators to trouble. The Senate meeting told of the threat of coronavirus, and following the meeting a handful of senators made questionable trades.

But on the day of the fateful Senate briefing he did not attend, Jan. 24, Perdue bought shares in DuPont, a manufacturer of personal protective equipment.

At the end of February, Perdue bought stocks in Pfizer, up to $260,000 worth by a Times count. He had frequently traded Pfizer stock in the past.

In late February and early March, Perdue sold stock in Caesars, the entertainment and casino business that would be pummeled by the pandemic. But, around the same time, he purchased shares in Disney and Delta, which seemed to counter any theory that he was trading on insider information.

There’s no evidence Perdue used insider information he learned as a member of Congress to conduct the trades.

Perdue has said his investments were handled by an independent adviser, but Perdue has not placed his financial holdings in a blind trust, meaning he still could have told the adviser what to buy and sell.

In April, after questions raised about his stock trades, Perdue sold virtually all of his stock holdings. He moved some of his money into mutual funds and exchange-traded funds.

The Justice Department has since closed its investigation into Perdue’s stock trades, as have the SEC and the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee.

But it opened a review into Perdue’s sale of more than $1 million in stock in January from Atlanta-based financial tech company Cardlytics, where the senator once served on the board. Weeks later, the CEO stepped down and stock price plummeted. Perdue then bought the stock back at a lower price, before it quadrupled. The New York Times reported that Perdue had direct input in the Cardlytics trade.

A debate moment went viral when Ossoff called Perdue a “crook” and accused him of profiting off the pandemic.

"Well, perhaps Senator Perdue would have been able to respond properly to the COVID-19 pandemic if you hadn’t been fending off multiple federal investigations for insider trading," Ossoff said in the Oct. 28 debate.

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"It’s not just that you’re a crook, senator. It’s that you’re attacking the health of the people that you represent. You did say COVID-19 was no deadlier than the flu. You did say there would be no significant uptick in cases. All the while, you were looking after your own assets and your own portfolio."

The Perdue campaign hit back with ads that Ossoff is telling “lies” and Perdue has been “totally exonerated.”

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A June 16 letter from Ethics Committee chief counsel Deborah Sue Mayer provided to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said the Senate committee “did not find evidence that your actions violated federal law, Senate Rules, or standards of conduct.”

In a follow-up statement, Ossoff’s campaign hit the senator for  “spending millions bragging on television that he hasn’t been indicted for obviously unethical behavior.”

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