The scandals of Kelly Loeffler, the former Georgia U.S. Senator, keep coming. And her continued scandals also (directly and indirectly) involve her husband, Jeff Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
Let’s look at the activities of Loeffler first.
This time, Loeffler is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Trump scheme to steal votes in Georgia while participating in a fake elector scheme for the 2020 election.
The latest brush with criminal conduct by Loeffler happened when the special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, recommended charges against Loeffler, as well as Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former GOP Sens. David Perdue, according to the special counsel grand jury report released Sept. 8, 2023.
“Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis did not charge the lawmakers when she returned an indictment last month against former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants in the sprawling racketeering case. It was up to the district attorney to decide how closely to stick to the special grand jury’s recommendations,” according to CNN.
And then there are the actions of her husband, Jeff Sprecher. As a former U.S. Senator, Loeffler is a repeat offender to the federal justice system. But what makes her a particular type of accused criminal (however, she has never been convicted of anything) is that she is married to billionaire Jeff Sprecher, 66, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, and chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.
While Sprecher is not an elected official and was never convicted of any criminal activity, he is a public figure as CEO and chairman of a publicly-held company and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) chairman. The NYSE is a self-regulatory agency charged with policing trading on the exchange, as well as trading of all its member firms, publicly traded listed companies, and members.
Sprecher and Loeffler show the investing public that Wall Street is a privileged community immune from the repercussions of financial scams that would put an average person in jail.
Both Sprecher and Loeffler were involved in an insider trading scandal in 2020. At that time, Loeffler was accused of trading on information she received in a confidential briefing about the impact of the COVID-19 virus. She and her financial advisors then sold stocks that the virus would hurt. After an investigation, Loeffler and Sprecher were not charged in the insider trading case.
Loeffler worked at the ICE, where she was senior vice president of corporate communications, marketing, and investor relations. At ICE, she met Sprecher, who is 15 years her senior. They married in 2004. Based on their history, both have a love of money and power, with no accountability to shareholders or constituents. According to Bloomberg, the estimated net worth of the couple is $1 billion.
Loeffler: A Two-Time Offender
In her most recent appearance in the national news, Loeffler is part of the Trump election scheme and criminal racketeering case brought by the Attorney General of Georgia, in addition to her earlier insider trading charges.
Loeffler is a Republican Trump operative who reportedly used her position for financial gain. Loeffler, who had no political experience before being appointed U.S. Senator by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. She got the position to fill a vacancy for an unexpired term from a Senator who retired early for health reasons.
As a U.S. Senator from Georgia, Loeffler voted in favor of regulations that would benefit her and her husband personally by voting on regulations that were considered by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) that came before her committee for a vote. The Wall Street Journal and Mother Jones Magazine reporter David Corn reported this story in detail.
She also called herself the most conservative Republican in the Senate and supported Trump; she voted in line with Trump’s positions 80% of the time. As a Trump accolade, she supported Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, to build a border wall, and opposed abortion, all COVID-19 prevention measures, gun control, and the right of transgender women to participate in sports.
Loeffler also will do anything to appease Trump supporters. In this video clip, Loeffler is repeatedly asked who won the 2020 election but cannot say Biden won. She may have changed her response after her Republican handlers gave her the OK. When Trump and his wife contracted COVID, Loeffler Tweeted, “China gave this virus to our President. WE MUST HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE.”
Sprecher Stains the NYSE’s Credibility
Meanwhile, her husband, Jeff Sprecher, the NYSE chairman and head of the nation’s premier stock exchange, was never publicly sanctioned by the NYSE board of directors or the exchange’s compliance-governance department for his role in the insider trading case.
Today, given the vast news coverage of the far-reaching Trump racketeering scheme in Georgia that made Loeffler an unindicted co-conspirator in an attempt to undermine a national presidential election, it’s time to ask what Sprecher knew about this criminal attempt.
Did he report the Georgia election scheme to anyone? Did he notify his board that his wife was an unindicted co-conspirator? Did he consider the dismal PR problem this would create, in addition to his earlier insider trading accusation?
The NYSE is supposed to symbolize fair play for all types of investors. It’s considered to be the pinnacle of corporate governance and transparency. But Sprecher makes a mockery of those lofty goals, which are part of the NYSE’s history and public mission statement.
To put this into perspective, no chairman of the NYSE, since its formation in 1794, has even been accused of insider trading. Still, it certainly looks to outsiders, including institutional investors, retail investors, and regulators, that the toothless NYSE board of directors receive their six-digit annual paychecks and look at their laps when faced with corruption charges against their CEO. Unfortunately, this could be expected behavior at too many publicly-held corporations when managing corporate scandals.
However, as a former employee of an NYSE subsidiary (the New York Futures Exchange) and a non-securities lawyer, I believe Sprecher violated these NYSE rules at the time of being charged with insider trading:
- NYSE Rule 2010. Standards of Commercial Honor and Principles of Trade; and,
- NYSE Rule 303A.10 Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, including its conflict-of-interest provisions and insider trading rules, says, “The listed company should proactively promote compliance with laws, rules, and regulations, including insider trading laws. Insider trading is unethical and illegal and should be dealt with decisively.”
While this insider trading rule applies to listed companies, why shouldn’t it “decisively” apply to individual NYSE executives?
The Collins dictionary provides an example: “Someone is decisive (when) they have or show an ability to make quick decisions in a difficult or complicated situation.” So, how quickly should the NYSE board react? The answer is clear.
Sprecher’s Major Contributions to Republicans
So, while Loeffler may get a pass from the Fulton County Georgia grand jury, her husband Sprecher has made millions in contributions to Republican PACS, candidates, and his wife’s Senatorial campaign.
These include a $10.5 million contribution to the Georgia United Victory PAC in 2020, which supported his wife in her senatorial bid, and $1 million to America First Action, a super PAC dedicated to helping federal candidates who back the Trump policy agenda, which ultimately concluded with an attempted insurrection.
The re-appearance of Loeffler in the Trump criminal conspiracy should not be a surprise. This power couple’s actions show that people involved at the nexus of money and politics greatly benefit from the perfect storm of big money, selective enforcement, and cronyism.
The Thomas’ and Sprecher/Loeffler: The Nation’s Most Corrupt Couples
The spouse’s sins certainly cannot be linked to the other spouse. But as seen in the activities of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni, a prominent right-wing Republican consultant, linked to activities involved in the Jan. 6, 2021 capitol insurrection, the ties between these married couples are hard to separate.
Like Thomas’, the Loeffler-Sprecher marriage makes it easy to see how these Republican power couples share the same anti-democratic ideology and contempt for the public.
As a billionaire couple, Sprecher and Loeffler, like Trump, also don’t like to pay their fair share of taxes. In 2009, the couple bought their mansion for $10.5 million and paid $200,000 in property taxes until 2016. Still, in 2020, the couple’s large Atlanta mansion dropped in value by roughly $6 million in 2016, “significantly cutting her property-tax bill, and no one knows why,” according to the Daily Beast.
But, then “the home’s value mysteriously slipped to $4.15 million, reducing their tax bill to $90,000. A slight increase in the value in 2020 means they will shell out about $112,000 in property taxes this year, per the report.” At the same time, the Sprecher-Loeffler property tax bill declined, seven of eight of the closest neighbors saw their property values increase, while the Loeffler-Sprecher’s valuation dropped by over half, according to the Daily Kos.
As Georgia’s former Congressional senator, Loeffler is not bothered by paying less property taxes into the Georgia treasury. This money could be used for education, teachers’ salaries, and other state improvements.
But, influential people in high places are rarely held to account for their misdeeds. In the earlier insider trading case involving Loeffler and her husband, Sprecher, an investigation by a Republican-led ethics committee, a William Barr Republican-led US Justice Department, and a Republican-led SEC, headed by Jay Clayton, a Trump appointee. During Clayton’s tenure, the SEC brought just 32 insider-trading enforcement actions in 2019, the fewest since 1996.
The Republican-led insider trading investigation exonerated Loeffler and another involved senator. However, if the same insider trading criteria in the Loeffler case were applied to an average citizen, they would have been quickly convicted.
American Investors and Georgia Citizens Deserve Better
It’s too much for outsiders to expect the NYSE board of directors to manage this apparent credibility and ethical problem. Under the capitalist system, individual investors have no input into running financial institutions. However, institutional investors—listed companies, corporate and state pension funds, mutual funds, banks, and investment firms—have the clout to make changes.
The popularity of environmental, sustainable, and governance (ESG) investing would make the Sprecher-Loeffler transgressions an ideal target. Still, they would need help from institutional investors, the only group with real power to enforce reform, to bring pressure on the NYSE board to fire Sprecher.
In any case, doing nothing to punish the CEO who heads the NYSE, the symbol of American capitalism, signals the investing public that Wall Street is a privileged community immune from the repercussions of financial scams that would put an average person in jail.
Paraphrasing President Franklin Roosevelt, the former senior financial writer for the New York Times, Diana Henriques, wrote in a Sept. 12, 2023, New York Times Op-Ed that “few things are more beneficial to the daily lives of the people than helping them safely save and invest in an economic system that treats them fairly and gives them hope.”
The actions of Sprecher and Loeffler do not deliver that beacon of hope and fairness to average Americans.