Insider-trading investigation against U.S. senator dismissed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Ethics Committee has cleared Senator Kelly Loeffler of wrongdoing in connection with stock trades, her office said on Wednesday, after the wealthy Republican - who is in a tough election race - was criticized over share sales during the coronavirus outbreak.

Slideshow ( 2 images )

“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.

“Despite the obvious attempts by the media, political opportunists and liberal groups like CREW and Common Cause to distort reality, facts still matter and the truth is prevailing,” the statement said.

Common Cause and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed complaints against Loeffler in March.

Loeffler had vehemently denied wrongdoing.

The investigation complicated her bid to retain the Georgia Senate seat to which she was appointed late last year. Ahead of a special election in November, Loeffler faces a strong challenge for the Republican nomination from Representative Doug Collins, who has used the stocks issue in his campaign.

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. 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 Loeffler participated in a private coronavirus briefing for senators, prompting criticism for possibly making stock transactions based on information not available to the general public.

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

Another Republican senator, Richard Burr, remains under investigation in connection with stock sales.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis