U.S. senator to liquidate individual stock shares after coronavirus flap

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FILE PHOTO: Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) who sold off millions of dollars in stock after a coronavirus briefing, waits for an interview to begin after attending a Senate Republican lunch meeting to wrap up work on coronavirus economic aid legislation to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2020. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler said on Wednesday she would liquidate her individual stock share positions after the wealthy Republican and her husband were criticized over sales of millions of dollars in stock during the coronavirus outbreak.

Loeffler, who was appointed to her Senate seat in January by Georgia’s governor, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. She is seeking to be elected to the seat in November.

In a Wall Street Journal opinion column on Wednesday, Loeffler said she was not changing her investment strategy because she has to. “I’m doing it because the issue isn’t worth the distraction,” she wrote.

Loeffler and her husband Jeff Sprecher, the chairman of the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange, sold millions of dollars in stock from late January through mid-February, making transactions on shares that were later affected by the global outbreak. The transactions, as first reported by The Daily Beast, were before the coronavirus-induced stock market meltdown.

The Daily Beast reported the sales began after she participated in a private coronavirus briefing for senators, prompting heavy criticism for possibly making stock transactions based on information not available to the general public. Georgia Democrats and others have called for her resignation. Republican Intelligence Committee Chairman Senator Richard Burr faced similar allegations and has also denied wrongdoing.

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

Loeffler used her column to lash out at news reports and political opponents.

“While the American people are enduring the impact of COVID-19, I have become a top target of baseless attacks from political adversaries and the media,” Loeffler wrote.

She also reiterated her earlier assertion that neither she nor anyone in her family had used confidential information obtained through her Senate role as a means of making a private profit.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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