Four U.S. senators sold millions of dollars worth of stocks shortly before Wall Street began a major selloff caused by fears of the economic impact of the coronavirus.
According to Senate disclosure forms, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, made 33 stock transactions on Feb. 13.
The forms do not disclose the exact value of transactions but provide a range. The sales collectively netted Burr between $628,000 and $1.72 million.
“There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history,” the senator said. “It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”
Burr also told the group he met with that the use of the military would be possible and that limits on travel were likely, both of which were not being publicly commented about at the time.
The website ProPublica, which first reported the stock sales, was told by Burr’s office that the senator did nothing wrong.
“Senator Burr filed a financial disclosure form for personal transactions made several weeks before the U.S. and financial markets showed signs of volatility due to the growing coronavirus outbreak,” his representative said. “As the situation continues to evolve daily, he has been deeply concerned by the steep and sudden toll this pandemic is taking on our economy.”
The revelation sparked a rebuke from Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Tucker Carlson calls for Senator Burr to resign and await prosecution for insider trading if he cannot provide a reasonable explanation for his actions. He goes on to say it appears that Senator Burr betrayed his country in a time of crisis pic.twitter.com/q7yJa5wjuA
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) March 20, 2020
Burr pushed back on Twitter, saying his comments to North Carolina constituents were in sync with the overall message being shared with the public.
This lunch was hosted on Feb. 27 by the North Carolina State Society. It was publicly advertised and widely attended.
NPR knew, but did not report, that attendees also included many non-members, bipartisan congressional staff, and representatives from the governor’s office. 2/
— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) March 19, 2020
Burr was not the only senator making major market transactions. The disclosure report for Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California showed she made a stock sale valued at between $1 million and $6 million on Feb. 18.
“All of Senator Feinstein’s assets are in a blind trust,” Feinstein spokesman Tom Mentzer said, according to The New York Times. “She has no involvement in her husband’s financial decisions.”
In its reporting, the Times noted that two other Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, also made stock sales in the days before Wall Street began its plunge.
Beginning on Feb. 14, according to her disclosure report, Loeffler made 23 stock sales against two purchases, with the value of the sales between $926,000 and $2.24 million. Many stock sales came on the same day she received a briefing on the virus, The Times reported.
Loeffler defended herself on Twitter.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
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.
— Senator Kelly Loeffler (@SenatorLoeffler) March 20, 2020
In January, according to his disclosure report, Inhofe sold between $180,000 and $400,000 in stocks.
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