• Business
    The Daily Beast

    Sen. Kelly Loeffler Dumped Millions in Stock After Coronavirus Briefing

    The Senate’s newest member sold off seven figures’ worth of stock holdings in the days and weeks after a private, all-senators meeting on the novel coronavirus that subsequently hammered U.S. equities.Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) reported the first sale of stock jointly owned by her and her husband on Jan. 24, the very day that her committee, the Senate Health Committee, hosted a private, all-senators briefing from administration officials, including the CDC director and Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on the coronavirus. “Appreciate today’s briefing from the President’s top health officials on the novel coronavirus outbreak,” she tweeted about the briefing at the time.That first transaction was a sale of stock in the company Resideo Technologies worth between $50,001 and $100,000. The company’s stock price has fallen by more than half since then, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average overall has shed approximately 10,000 points, dropping about a third of its value.It was the first of 29 stock transactions that Loeffler and her husband made through mid-February, all but two of which were sales. One of Loeffler’s two purchases was stock worth between $100,000 and $250,000 in Citrix, a technology company that offers teleworking software and which has seen a small bump in its stock price since Loeffler bought in as a result of coronavirus-induced market turmoil.Loeffler’s office did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast on the transactions and whether they were prompted or informed by information shared at that late January briefing. It’s illegal for members of Congress to trade on non-public information gleaned through their official duties. Late Thursday night, she did offer a statement, tweeting: “This is a ridiculous and baseless attack. I do not make investment decisions for my portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband’s knowledge or involvement.“As confirmed in the periodic transaction report to Senate Ethics, I was informed of these purchases and sales on February 16, 2020 — three weeks after they were made.”In the weeks after her spate of stock trades, Loeffler sought to downplay the public health and financial threats posed by the coronavirus. “Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on Coronavirus readiness,” she tweeted on Feb. 28. “Here’s the truth: & his administration are doing a great job working to keep Americans healthy & safe.”“Concerned about coronavirus?” she tweeted on March 10. “Remember this: The consumer is strong, the economy is strong, & jobs are growing, which puts us in the best economic position to tackle COVID19 & keep Americans safe.”Loeffler is the second known senator to sell off large stock holdings between that Jan. 24 briefing and the dramatic drop in stock market indices over the last week. The Center for Responsive Politics reported on Thursday that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, sold between $500,000 and $1.5 million in stock in February, shortly before markets tanked—and before Burr privately warned of the havoc that coronavirus was poised to wreak.Burr lashed out at National Public Radio on Thursday over its report revealing those private comments in a series of tweets that did not mention his stock trades. Burr was one of just one of three senators who voted against legislation in 2012 banning so-called congressional insider trading.As it happens, Burr and Loeffler sat next to each other on the Senate floor during the chamber’s impeachment trial in January.Loeffler assumed office on Jan. 6 after having been appointed to the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson. Between then and Jan. 23 she did not report a single stock transaction from accounts owned by her individually or by her and her husband jointly.Between Jan. 24 and Feb. 14, by contrast, Loeffler reported selling stock jointly owned with her husband worth between $1,275,000 and $3,100,000, according to transaction reports filed with Senate ethics officials. On Feb. 14, she also purchased the Citrix stock and another $100,000 to $250,000 in technology company Oracle, which has seen its share price decline by more than 18 percent since then.The 15 stocks that Loeffler reported selling have lost more than a third of their value, on average, since she reported offloading them. She initially reported many of the transactions as sales of stock owned by her husband. Last week she amended the filing to note that most of them were jointly owned.The full scope of Loeffler’s portfolio and its particular holdings is not yet known. Senators are required to regularly disclose that information, but in January she requested an extension from Senate ethics officials. A full accounting of her finances will not be public until May.When Loeffler assumed office she immediately became the wealthiest member of Congress. The Atlanta businesswoman, whose husband is the chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, is worth an estimated $500 million.From the beginning of her tenure, she has faced scrutiny over potential conflicts of interest. Her position on a Senate subcommittee that oversees futures markets “gives Kelly Loeffler a direct position in overseeing her and her husband’s financial enterprises,” Craig Holman, lobbyist for the ethics group Public Citizen, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution in February. “I find it utterly irresponsible the Senate would choose to put Loeffler on that committee, given her conflicts of interest.” Unlike other senators, Loeffler’s finances are directly tied to her electoral fate. She has pledged to spend $20 million on her bid to hold on to her seat when she faces voters for the first time this November. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

  • Entertainment
    Deadline

    AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron Says ‘We Are Going To Have To Get Liquidity From Somewhere” As Congress Mulls Bailout

    Adam Aron, CEO of the nation's largest movie chain said "the industry has to get liquidity from somewhere" since "we all have expenses and none of us have revenue" after exhibitors closed their doors across the country amidst the spreading coronavirus pandemic. "I am here as a representative of our industry. … The reality is […]

  • World
    Bloomberg

    China Showers Europe With Virus Aid While Sparring With Trump

    (Bloomberg) -- Last month, Beijing’s ambassador to Estonia accused the Baltic nation’s intelligence service of having a “Cold War mindset” for labeling China a threat, warning that its “distorted” conclusions damaged bilateral relations.Four weeks later, Estonian officials took part in a video conference hosted by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in which the Asian country’s health officials shared their experience in fighting the novel coronavirus.The Estonians found the materials “very professional and targeted” and sought to distribute them widely, according to an account of the call posted by China’s embassy in Tallinn. “Estonia hopes to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with China to fight against Covid-19,” it said.Estonia, a member of the European Union, is far from alone in its conflicted relations with China -- nor in becoming a sudden target of Chinese largess. As Europe becomes the epicenter of the virus that first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, Beijing is stepping up its outreach to individual governments there.That’s coming at the very moment that the U.S. -- and in some cases the EU -- is seen to be turning away. The result is a battle for hearts and minds that China seems to be winning, at least for the moment.“It’s great that China has this availability and that it is currently in a position to offer this kind of help,” said Lucrezia Poggetti, an analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin. Aid is much needed, she said, but in supplying it, China is consciously exercising its soft power. “There is a major propaganda push at play on the side of the Chinese with some willing enablers on the European side,” Poggetti said.U.S.-China Ties Are Tanking Just When They Need to Get Along For China, the outreach to Europe is part of an effort to claw back an international leadership role after early cover-ups helped the virus spread well beyond its borders. President Xi Jinping’s government has sought to silence critics, including reporters and online commentators, and also spread conspiracy theories about where the virus originated.Geopolitically, China’s move to brand itself as Europe’s savior aims to improve its standing on a global stage as both spar with the Trump administration. China and the U.S. have continued a wider fight for global influence -- Beijing kicked out more than a dozen American journalists this week -- while also seeking to deflect blame for their handling of the disease.U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to Covid-19 as a “Chinese virus,” and insisted Wednesday that the term wasn’t racist. He has also angered Europe, barring all travel from the continent without consulting U.S. allies.This week, Xi described China’s mass deployment of medical aid to Europe as an effort to further a “Health Silk Road,” stretching his Belt and Road trade-and-infrastructure initiative. Along with well-publicized state help for stricken countries such as Italy, aid is being channeled across the continent by private companies in the name of Beijing, helping to burnish China’s image from France to Ukraine.On Wednesday, China’s ambassador in Athens delivered more than 50,000 protective masks to the Greek health minister. The Chinese embassy in Paris has said help was coming to France, while Bulgaria and Slovenia were also getting aid.Xi told Spainish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in a call Tuesday that China would provide support to combat the epidemic. That same day, an aircraft carrying medical aid from China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and billionaire Jack Ma’s foundation arrived at Spain’s Zaragoza Airport, the Chinese embassy said on Twitter.Alibaba and the Jack Ma Foundation have also been involved in airlifting aid to Belgium and to Ukraine, which needs express tests to detect the coronavirus. “We agreed with China and we are grateful to them, especially grateful to Jack Ma as he helped us by financing the $80 million” cost of the medical kit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said late Monday.Others are turning to China out of desperation. Cyprus, Luxembourg and even Norway, which has the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, have called on Beijing for support or are considering doing so.In Lithuania -- another Baltic state that fell out with China over a critical security assessment -- Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga said his government was reaching out to China to buy “several hundred” lung ventilators. “We don’t want to wait” for joint EU medical supply purchases, Veryga said Wednesday.That kind of dependence on China is a warning sign for some.‘Exposed’ to China“This crisis has showed how exposed we in Romania and in Europe are to imports from China,” Romanian Economic Minister Virgil Popescu said this week, adding that the government in Bucharest aims to encourage domestic production of health-care products as a result.China’s offers of donations to the EU centrally and to individual member states is “highly appreciated,” an EU spokesperson said in an emailed response to questions. Still, the bloc regarded the help as reciprocal for when China was in need and “we were doing our utmost” to support them.European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen noted that the EU had donated 50 tons of equipment to China in January as she tweeted China’s announcement on Wednesday it would provide 2 million surgical masks, 200,000 N95 masks and 50,000 testing kits for Europe.Not all aid is without strings. Some is in the form of purchase contracts that serve to help Chinese manufacturers striving to restore production after China’s weeks-long lockdown, said Poggetti at Merics. Other support serves a domestic political agenda in Europe.‘Not Alone’Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, who was instrumental in Italy becoming the first Group of Seven nation to sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative last year, staged a live Facebook video last week to show the arrival of medical equipment and a team of Chinese doctors. “We are not alone, there are people in the world who want to help Italy,” he said.In a speech Sunday, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic praised China effusively for its support in helping his country battle the virus, and contrasted China’s provision of medical aid to the “fairy tale” of solidarity from Europe. Serbia is a recipient of Chinese investments whose bid to join the EU remains far in the future.For Gao Zhikai, a former Chinese diplomat and translator to late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, China’s aid for Europe is a matter of vital international cooperation, since “in the fight against Covid-19, mankind is in the same boat.”“Europe does not need to be charmed,” he said in an interview. “Many European countries need assistance and solidarity. For China, helping Italy and other European countries in these difficult times is the right thing to do.”It is too soon to say whether China’s European outreach will have a lasting impact, said Poggetti. China’s one-party state and record on human rights is generally viewed negatively in Europe, but its actions during the current crisis may help win over some.In certain sections of society, “the image of China as savior while the U.S. and Europe leave us alone is really resonating,” she said.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.