Burr asks ethics committee to review his stock sales, amid reports senators sold as markets crashed

The sales are raising questions about whether the lawmakers used privileged information

Updated: March 20, 2020 - 5:50pm

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Sen. Richard Burr on Friday asked the Senate Ethics Committee to review his recent stock sales, following news reports that he and three other senators made the sales as the stock markets plummeted amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The North Carolina Republican said in a statement that he “relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks."

Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sold roughly $1.7 million in stocks before the markets started dropping in February, as the economic fallout of the virus spreading around the world became clearer.

The three other senators who reportedly sold the stocks are California Sen. Diane Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler (Georgia) and James Inhofe (Oklahoma).

None of the senators have been accused of illegal activity, but their actions have raised questions about whether the privileged information as members of Congress influenced the stock sales.

Burr and his wife sold about $600,000 to $1.7 million in roughly 30 separate transactions from late-January to mid-February, based on the required Senate disclosure records that he filed and first reported by ProPublica and The Center for Responsive Politics.

Burr reportedly had no inside information before selling the stocks, but he’s coming under scrutiny for giving a speech to business leaders in his home state around the time of his stock sales in which he seemed to give a more dire analysis of the virus spread, compared to his official public statements, according to National Public Radio. 

Burr said Thursday that the warnings he gave were already public information. 

Loeffler sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock in late-January, as the virus started to spread from China, as first reported by the Daily Beast.

Loeffler’s husband is Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, owner of the New York Stock Exchange.

Loeffler in response tweeted that the investment decisions for her portfolio are made by multiple third-party advisers without her or her husband's knowledge or involvement.

She also called the report a "ridiculous and baseless attack."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called for Burr and Loeffler to resign in a series of tweets. 

"It is stomach-churning that the first thoughts these Senators had to a dire & classified #COVID briefing was how to profit off this crisis. They didn’t mobilize to help families, or prep response," she wrote on Friday. "They dumped stock. Sen. Loeffler needs to resign, too."

North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin called for Burr to resign in a statement on Friday. 

“Sen. Burr has betrayed the trust of every North Carolinian in a time of crisis and should resign immediately,” he said. 

Feinstein and her husband sold about $1.5 million to $6 million in stock in a California biotech company, from late-January to mid-February, according to The New York Times..

“All of Senator Feinstein’s assets are in a blind trust,” a Feinstein spokesman said in response. “She has no involvement in her husband’s financial decisions.”

The Times reports that Inhofe sold roughly $400,000 in stock on Jan. 27.

Inhofe has responded: "I do not have any involvement in my investment decisions," reports Fox News.

Just the News asked Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, if he thinks the senators should resign.

“I think there has to be an ethics investigation and there are now laws and rules adopted by the United States Senate against any insider trading so there should be a prompt inquiry and appropriate action," he said on Friday. 

"I know nothing more than what I have seen reported publicly but certainly there are very serious questions about their sale of stock and there should be some kind of investigation whether it’s by the Senate Ethics Committee or some other appropriate body," he added.

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