Sen. Richard Burr has asked the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate him as he is being roundly condemned for allegedly selling off more than $1 million worth of stocks after being briefed about the coronavirus.
Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, is among four senators under fire for dumping shares around the same time, before it became clear to the American public what sort of economic consequences the coronavirus would have.
“I relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks on February 13. Specifically, I closely followed CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of its Asia bureaus at the time,” Burr said in a statement released on Twitter.
“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,” Burr concluded.
My statement in response to reports about recent financial disclosures: pic.twitter.com/J4kye5a4ok
— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) March 20, 2020
Burr is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The other three senators caught up in the controversy are Republicans Kelly Loeffler and James Inhofe, of Georgia and Oklahoma, respectively, and California Democrat Dianne Feinstein.
The senators all made major trades just weeks before the global markets began to tank.
The New York Times reported that Burr sold off up to $1.7 million worth of stocks on Feb. 13, not long before the markets plunged in response to fears about the spread of the coronavirus.
Burr was receiving daily intelligence briefings regarding the coronavirus around that time, Reuters reported on Feb. 27.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson excoriated Burr on his program Thursday evening, calling for the senator to resign and potentially face criminal prosecution.
“He had inside information about what could happen to our country, which is now happening,” Carlson said. “But he didn’t warn the public.”
Carlson said Burr instead “dumped his shares in hotel stocks so he wouldn’t lose money and then he stayed silent.”
The Fox host added that if Burr is unable to come up with a valid explanation for the timing of his decision to move his shares around, he should “resign from the Senate and face prosecution for insider trading.”
“There is no greater moral crime than betraying your country in a time of crisis,” Carlson added.
“There is no greater moral crime than betraying your country in a time of crisis.” Tucker Carlson on Burr. pic.twitter.com/1Kb53Ww4cb
— Nicholas Thompson (@nxthompson) March 20, 2020
Fox News reported Burr “attended closed-door meetings for weeks about the growing health crisis along with Sen. Kelly Loeffler.”
Loeffler and her husband sold up to $3.1 million worth of stocks between Jan. 24 and Feb. 14, according to The Daily Beast. Jan. 24 is the same day that Loeffler attended a Senate Health Committee briefing on the coronavirus threat.
She also reportedly purchased shares in two companies, including one that offers teleconferencing software.
Loeffler’s office issued a statement about her investment activity on Friday.
“Sen. Loeffler does not make investment decisions for her portfolio,” the statement said. “Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisers without her or her husband’s knowledge or involvement.”
Loeffler’s husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange.
Citing financial disclosure records, The Times reported that Inhofe liquidated $400,000 worth of holdings in companies such as Apple and PayPal on Jan. 27.
Inhofe told Tulsa World he does not make his own investment decisions and that he did not attend the Jan. 24 coronavirus briefing.
Feinstein and her husband, meanwhile, sold up to a combined $6 million worth of stock in a biotechnology company called Allogene Therapeutics on Jan. 31 and Feb. 18.
“All of Senator Feinstein’s assets are in a blind trust,” Feinstein spokesman Tom Mentzer told The Times.
“She has no involvement in her husband’s financial decisions.”
As Forbes reported, “Prior to 2012, Congress members were not prohibited from insider trading.”
However, when the STOCK Act became law in 2012, it prevented federal government employees, including lawmakers and judges, from trading based off of insider knowledge obtained while working on behalf of the people.
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