Senator Richard Burr is being asked to resign after he reportedly sold stocks before markets dropped due to coronavirus fears.
Richard Burr of North Carolina is the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee. He and his wife made different transactions, selling between around $628,000 and $1.7m in late January and mid-February, according to ProPublica and the Center for Responsive Politics.
Most of these sales happened on 13 February, two weeks before Burr delivered a speech about the possible consequences of the coronavirus outbreak. These include school closures and reductions on company travel.
In an audio recording released by the National Public Radio, Burr pointed out that disease brought by the virus was “much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history” and “probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”
However, in his Tweet, Burr described NPR’s revelation as “a tabloid-style hit piece” that led to the distortion of his message. He reiterated that Americans were already being advised about the effects of the virus at the time.
“The message I shared with my constituents is the one public health officials urged all of us to heed as coronavirus spread increased,” Burr wrote. “Be prepared.”
Meanwhile, there was no evidence found that Burr obtained any inside information as he sold the stocks or made a speech in North Carolina.
A source told the Associated Press that the Senate intelligence committee did not get any briefings on the outbreak during the week when most of the stocks were sold.
Also in the spotlight is Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, whose husband is the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) — Jeffrey Sprecher.
She reportedly sold off stocks worth seven figures when she and other senators learned through a private briefing about the coronavirus. This briefing was given by administration officials and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
“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,” The Daily Beast reported.
Loeffler responded via Twitter: “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.”
Walter Shaub, former head of the Office of Government Ethics, called for an investigation to determine “if laws were broken by senatorial stock dumps. But whether or not they were, we have politicians in the government’s inner circle protecting their interests as the storm closed in on regular Americans who will do the suffering and the dying.”