CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
202-408-5565 | [email protected]
Washington- Senators Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler should be investigated for possible violations of the STOCK Act, insider trading laws and ethics rules when they sold millions of dollars in stock assets after receiving nonpublic briefings about the coronavirus outbreak, according to a Senate Ethics Committee complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The Ethics Committee should also investigate any other senator if facts emerge of possible violations on their parts.
On February 13, Burr made 33 separate stock sales, totaling as much as $1.72 million, including some highly vulnerable to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, including Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and Extended Stay America. Burr, whose committee reportedly was getting “daily updates” on the pandemic from the intelligence community at the time, assured the public that “the United States is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus” in February, while telling a private, well connected audience that it was “much more aggressive in its transmission than anything we’ve seen in recent history,” comparing it to the 1918 flu pandemic. The market crash began just over a week after his stock sale.
“If Senator Burr had inside information about how bad the coronavirus outbreak could be and used it to protect his personal fortune, while reassuring the public that the government was prepared for the disease, that would be a shocking violation of the public trust and may have been a violation of the law,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “We have already heard recordings of Burr giving a far more grim take to a group of wealthy and connected people than he was giving the public, but this latest revelation suggests his betrayal of the Americans he represents may have been even worse.”
On January 24, Loeffler attended a briefing on the situation as a member of the Senate HELP Committee. That same day, she and her husband made the first of dozens of stock sales executed between then and February 14, worth up to $3.1 million. She also purchased several stocks during this period, including Citrix, which produces teleworking software and could have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Loeffler also made comments minimizing the impact of the outbreak. The markets began to fall within a week of her final sale.
“The job of a US Senator is to serve the American people,” Bookbinder said. “It appears that in a time of crisis, these senators chose instead to serve themselves, violating the public trust and abdicating their duty. They must be immediately investigated.”
The purpose of the STOCK Act is to prevent members of Congress from using inside information gained from their official positions for private gain. Especially in these difficult times, any indication that a Senator abused his or her office to avoid a personal financial loss is cause for deep concern. It is therefore imperative that the Ethics Committee immediately investigate whether Sens. Burr and Loeffler engaged in insider trading or other conduct that violates the law or Senate rules.