DOJ opens probe into Senate stock sell-off in wake of coronavirus briefings

The FBI is investigating the stock market trades of several senators just before the market dipped due to the global spread of coronavirus

The Department of Justice seal
The Department of Justice seal
(Brendan Smialowksi / Getty Images)
Updated: March 30, 2020 - 8:20am

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The Justice Department has reportedly opened a probe into U.S. senators selling stocks just before financial markets  plunge as the coronavirus spread around the world. 

The FBI has contacted at least one of the four senators identified in the selloff, Sen. Richard Burr, chairman the Senate Intelligence Committee, CNN reported Sunday. 

Burr, a North Carolina Republican, on February 13, sold $628,000 to $1.7 million in stocks. Burr says the trade decisions were based on information accessible to the public. In early March, the senator requested that the Senate Ethics Committee review his trades. 

The question becomes whether the lawmakers conducted trades based on information they received in non-public briefings about the novel coronavirus. Of now, there is no indication that Burr, or any of the other lawmakers, broke the law or any Senate rules. It is common for the FBI and SEC to open probes into trades that have caused a public question of their appropriateness. 

An attorney for Burr said that the senator "welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate." 

Between January 24 and February 14, recently appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and her husband, who is the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, sold stocks valued from $1.275 million to $3.1 million.

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) also faced public scrutiny for stocks traded between January and February. Though, neither senator has been contacted by the FBI, according to their offices. 

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