US Closes Probes of 3 Senators’ Stock Trades

Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., waits to do a March 20 television interview on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department has closed investigations into stock trading by Senators Dianne Feinstein of California, Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, according to people familiar with notifications sent to the senators. The senators came under scrutiny for transactions made in the weeks before the coronavirus sent markets tumbling.

The developments indicate that federal law enforcement officials are narrowing their focus in the stock investigation to Senator Richard Burr, R-N.C, the former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman. Agents showed up at his Washington-area home about two weeks ago with a warrant to search his cellphone.

Senate records show that Burr and his wife sold between roughly $600,000 and $1.7 million in more than 30 transactions in late January and mid-February, just before markets began to dive and government health officials began to sound alarms about the virus. Burr has denied wrongdoing.

Loeffler, Inhofe and Feinstein were notified Tuesday that they are no longer under investigation, according to three people familiar with the contacts but not authorized to speak about them. A spokesman for Loeffler, a Republican in a competitive reelection race, said in a statement that the Justice Department’s decision “affirms what Senator Loeffler has said all along — she did nothing wrong.”

The spokesman, Stephen Lawson, said that scrutiny of the trades was a “politically motivated attack” by her political opponents and the news media. Loeffler, who became a senator in January, and her husband dumped substantial portions of their portfolio and bought new stocks around the time Congress was receiving briefings on the seriousness of the pandemic. Loeffler’s husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is chairman of the New York Stock Exchange. She said the accounts were managed by third-party advisers.

Feinstein, a Democrat, reported that her husband sold between $1.5 million and $6 million worth of stock in Allogene Therapeutics before the market drop. The San Francisco-based biotech company researches and develops cures for cancer.

Inhofe, a Republican, sold between roughly $395,000 and $850,000 worth of stock he held in multiple companies in late January and early February, according to a disclosure.

Like Loeffler, Inhofe and Feinstein denied any wrongdoing or involvement in the trades. Inhofe tweeted in March that he had asked his financial adviser to move him out of stocks and into mutual funds in 2018, shortly after he became chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Both Loeffler and Feinstein have acknowledged contacts with the Justice Department. A spokesman for Feinstein said this month that she was asked “some basic questions” by law enforcement about sales her husband made and had voluntarily answered questions.

A Loeffler spokesperson said that the senator forwarded documents to the department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee “establishing that she and her husband acted entirely appropriately and observed both the letter and the spirit of the law.”

Meanwhile, Burr has stepped aside as chairman of the intelligence panel during the probe, saying he didn’t want it to be a distraction. He also called for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate his actions.

A spokeswoman for Alice Fisher, Burr’s attorney, said Fisher would have no comment. The attorney has said that the senator has been “actively cooperating” with investigators.

“From the outset, Senator Burr has been focused on an appropriate and thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate,” Fisher said in a statement this month.

Burr has acknowledged selling the stocks because of the coronavirus but said he relied “solely on public news reports,” specifically CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of Asia, to make the financial decisions.


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