Before two U.S. Senators faced heavy criticism for dumping millions of dollars’ worth of stock just before the coronavirus pandemic caused their value to tumble, Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) had already converted all of her individual stocks to Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that obviate any appearance of conflict.
Sherill and her husband, Jason Hedberg, decided to convert to ETFs last December and instructed to financial advisor to begin the process during the first week of January, before receiving any briefings on COVID-19, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
They sold stock in 112 individual companies on February 20, 2020 and purchased ETFs for the same value the following day, according to a periodic transaction report obtained by the Globe.
The move puts Sherill well above the national controversy on personal financial dealings.
“Congresswoman Sherrill has smartly decided there’s only one way to avoid the inherent conflict of interest in making decisions that affect individual stock values, which is to not buy and sell individual stocks,” said Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. “By going above and beyond what’s required of her by law and ethics rule, she has recognized that simply complying with weak requirements is not enough.”
The freshman congresswoman’s stock investments are valued between $500,000 and $1.25 million, according to her financial disclosure.
Sherrill reported capital gains in 76 of the 112 companies she owned stock in.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) and newly-appointed U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Georgia) sold stocks in late January and early February, Both had been briefed by the Trump administration on the spread of COVID-19 before selling the stocks.
Records show the Burr sold off up to $1.7 million worth of stock just after his committee began receiving daily coronavirus briefings, according to a ProPublica report.
The briefings for both senators included non-public information about coronavirus.
According to Rasmussen, Sherrill is “setting an example for other members of Congress on how to still participate in the market while avoiding the serious trouble Senators Burr and Loeffler have created for themselves.”
Hedberg is a stock trader at UBS Securities and was restricted from trading his own stocks even before his wife’s election to Congress. The decision to divest of individual stocks appears to raise their personal bar even higher.
Sherill’s stocks in companies like Amazon, Facebook, Walmart and Home Depot have now been sold.
Instead, she has purchased shares in five Exchange-traded funds, all valued between $100,001 and $250,000.
Exchange-traded funds are essentially a basket of securities that trade similarly to stocks. They typically include huge numbers of stocks that are not identified to the ETF shareholder.Mikie Sherrill April 2020 Periodic Transaction Report