Coronavirus

GOP Senators Sold Off Stocks After Virus Briefings

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

NPR first reported yesterday morning that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) privately briefed his wealthy donors on the threat of the coronavirus while publicly downplaying it, but new reports indicate that he also profited from his advanced knowledge while publicly downplaying it.

After assuring the public that everything was in order, and before Wall Street fell off a cliff, Senator Burr sold a significant amount of stock in hotels and tourism; companies that lost a large portion of their value after he sold his stocks.

From Pro Publica:

Soon after he offered public assurances that the government was ready to battle the coronavirus, the powerful chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, sold off a significant percentage of his stocks, unloading between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 33 separate transactions.

As the head of the intelligence committee, Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has access to the government’s most highly classified information about threats to America’s security. His committee was receiving daily coronavirus briefings around this time, according to a Reuters story. [...]

His biggest sales included companies that are among the most vulnerable to an economic slowdown. He dumped up to $150,000 worth of shares of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, a chain based in the United States that has lost two-thirds of its value. And he sold up to $100,000 of shares of Extended Stay America, an economy hospitality chain. Shares of that company are now worth less than half of what they did at the time Burr sold.

The Daily Beast reported last night that Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) also sold off her stocks on the exact same day the Senate Health Committee she sits on was briefed on the coronavirus.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) reported the first sale of stock jointly owned by her and her husband on Jan. 24, the very day that her committee, the Senate Health Committee, hosted a private, all-senators briefing from administration officials, including the CDC director and Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on the coronavirus.

That first transaction was a sale of stock in the company Resideo Technologies valued at between $50,001 and $100,000. The company’s stock price has fallen by more than half since then, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average overall has shed approximately 10,000 points, dropping about a third of its value.

It was the first of 29 stock transactions that Loeffler and her husband made through mid-February, all but two of which were sales. One of Loeffler’s two purchases was stock worth between $100,000 and $250,000 in Citrix, a technology company that offers teleworking software and which has seen a small bump in its stock price since Loeffler bought in as a result of coronavirus-induced market turmoil.

Senator Burr has released a statement admitting that he sold off his stock, but he claims he only used publicly available information to make the decision; not inside information.

That doesn't pass the laugh test.

It may be easier to believe that the Intelligence Committee chairman only used publicly available information if he had personally warned or briefed the public, but he didn't. And neither did anyone else; not Trump or any other congressional Republicans. Burr privately warned his richest constituents, but his public statements and his decision to sell his stocks in sensitive businesses do not comport.

Senator Loeffler has released a statement straight up denying that anything improper occurred and that investment decisions are made by someone else without her knowledge, but I also find that very hard to believe.

Are we suppose to believe that a third party just coincidentally sold stocks that subsequently lost half of their value while buying stock in work-from-home software?

Loeffler says she only learned about these stock trades after the fact, but after she learned about them she continued to publicly downplay the threat of the virus.

Senator Burr's transactions currently look the most suspicious to me, but any case like this should be investigated to the fullest extent. Millions of Americans are losing their jobs and livelihoods and some elected leaders may have profited from it.

Allegations against Senators Dianne Feinstein and James Inhofe also surfaced last night, but they appear to be legitimate.

  • Christopher Foxx

    Allegations against Senators Dianne Feinstein and James Inhofe also surfaced last night, but they appear to be legitimate.

    To be clear: It’s the trades that appear legitimate, not the allegations. (The report I saw, for example, noted that Feinstein’s trades done by a blind trust outside her control.)

  • 1933john

    Of course!

  • muselet

    This looks an awful lot like insider trading to me. Certainly the timing looks suspicious. The senators—yes, including Dianne Feinstein—should be investigated and charges brought if warranted.

    To save you all a Google search, the maximum sentence for insider trading is 20 years in a federal penitentiary; the maximum criminal fine is $5 million.

    I’m sure the SEC will get right on it.

    –alopecia

  • gescove

    Robert Reich reminds us that Burr was one of three senators to vote against the 2012 STOCK Act, which barred lawmakers from using non-public information for trades. Grifting is one thing in this age of Trump. But slinging happy talk about a serious health crisis when you know better is just inexcusable. Resign now, Burr.