Multiple senators are in the hot seat after it was revealed that they used information about the coronavirus pandemic, obtained in closed-door briefings about the virus, to sell off millions in stocks before the market crashed.
The Senate Health Committee was briefed on January 24th about the virus in order to help prepare the country for the inevitable outbreak. Shortly after that meeting, four Senators apparently sold off millions of dollars in stocks.
Because they sold before the market crashed, they were able to cash in on their insider knowledge weeks before the rest of us saw our stock portfolios tank and our 401(k)s flatline.
Burr Sheds Almost $2 million in Stocks
Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) sold in the neighborhood of $1.7 million in stocks on February 13th, according to a Reuters report. NPR also released damaging evidence in the form of an audio recording where Burr appears to give a group of supporters at a private lunch a much different outlook on the economy than the one he had delivered to the American people.
Burr, who is the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was privy to information that only a handful of people could have known about the spread of the virus and its predicted impact on the US economy.
Even Tucker Carlson, a Fox News commentator who is typically very supportive of Republican lawmakers and the Trump administration, is calling for Senator Burr to resign and for criminal prosecution to take place. Carlson said, “is no greater moral crime than betraying your country in a time of crisis.”
More Senators May Have Offloaded Stocks
Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) also sold off at least $50,000 in stocks the day after she received a briefing on the virus as part of the Senate Health Committee.
She and her husband (who happens to be the chair of the New York Stock Exchange) also invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Citrix–a company that makes software for virtual offices and work-from-home employees–in February.
Three other senators–Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Ron Johnson (R-OK), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also offloaded stocks during that window, but there is some question about whether they acted inappropriately based on insider information.
Burr Agrees to Investigation
Sen. Burr defended himself in a statement released on Friday morning, writing: “I relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision on the sale of stocks February 13. Specifically, I closely followed CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of its Asia bureaus at the time.”
He went on to agree to an oversight by the Senate Ethics Committee: “Understanding the assumption many could make in hindsight however, I spoke this morning with the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and asked him to open a complete review of the matter with full transparency.”
Lawmakers are required to disclose their stock trading activity on a regular basis, according to the STOCK Act passed in 2012. Burr opposed the bill in Congress at the time. The law is designed to prevent Congresspeople from exploiting any privileged information they receive for financial gain.