North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr is in hot water Friday after ProPublica reported Thursday night that the GOP senator sold off up to $1.7 million in stock, just after attending classified briefings on the Wuhan virus and then reassuring the public of the government’s preparedness to deal with the epidemic.
According to ProPublica, Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, sold somewhere between $628,000 to $1.7 million in stocks after sitting in on classified congressional briefings on the government’s plans to combat the virus poised to overwhelm U.S. hospitals.
Burr made 33 transactions on Feb. 13. A week prior, Burr co-authored an op-ed for Fox News with Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander touting the government’s readiness in the face of the pandemic.
“The United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus,” the senators wrote. “No matter the outbreak or threat, Congress and the federal government have been vigilant in identifying gaps in its readiness efforts and improving its response capabilities.”
Reuters reports that around the time of Burr’s sales however, Burr’s committee was receiving daily briefings on the virus.
A week after the transactions, the economy began to take a sharp turn, and the stock market declined almost 30 percent since.
The North Carolina senator has rejected the accusations of insider trading.
“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. “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.”
In 2012, Barr was one of three senators to oppose a bill that prohibited lawmakers and their staffs to use nonpublic information to make trades on the exchange. The bill was ultimately signed by President Barack Obama and is known as the STOCK Act.
Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler is also being accused of engaging with insider trading over the Wuhan Virus. Loeffler, according to the Daily Beast, began selling off stocks owned by her and her husband on Jan. 24. On the same day, her Senate Health Committee hosted a private briefing with all senators and White House officials on the threat regarding to virus.
The Beast reports that it was the first of 29 transactions that would take place throughout February while the stock market began to crash.
Loeffler, who is far richer than Burr, disputed the charges lobbied against her in a statement Thursday night.
“This is a ridiculous and baseless attack,” Loeffler wrote. “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.”
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.
— Senator Kelly Loeffler (@SenatorLoeffler) March 20, 2020