Richard Burr, Kelly Loeffler urged to resign for selling stocks after coronavirus briefing
Two more senators made hefty stock sales before the coronavirus pandemic tanked global markets, records revealed as two other lawmakers who dumped millions in shares faced mounting calls to resign.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Jim Inhofe sold as much as $6.4 million worth of stock in the weeks before panic about the coronavirus sparked a worldwide selloff, according to disclosure filings first reported by the New York Times.
The additional revelations came amid widespread outrage toward GOP senators Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler, who reportedly traded shares after getting briefings on the coronavirus threat.
Feinstein, a California Democrat, sold $500,001 to $1 million worth of stock in a company called Allogene Therapeutics on Jan. 31, less than a month before panic about the virus caused markets to plunge, Senate records show. Her husband sold $1,000,001 to $5 million worth of Allogene shares on Feb. 18, according to financial disclosures.
And Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, dumped as much as $600,000 worth of stock on Jan. 27, records show. He sold shares in five different companies including Apple, PayPal and Brookfield Asset Management, according to a disclosure report.
Inhofe representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Feinstein spokesman Tom Mentzer said her husband made the transactions, not the senator herself.
“All of Senator Feinstein’s assets are in a blind trust, as they have been since she came to the Senate,” Mentzer said in an email. “She has no involvement in any of her husband’s financial decisions.”
The revelations came as figures across the political spectrum said Burr and Loeffler should resign for using sensitive information to cash in before fears about the virus tanked global stock markets.
“It is stomach-churning that the first thoughts these Senators had to a dire & classified #COVID briefing was how to profit off this crisis,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said on Twitter Thursday night.
“I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat,” tweeted Charlie Kirk, a prominent conservative activist and chair of Students for Trump. “If you trade with inside info to enrich yourself during a crisis you are a disgrace. Resign, apologize, and donate all earnings to families of victims of China Virus.”
Burr, of North Carolina, was receiving daily briefings on the spreading coronavirus around the time he dumped as much as $1.7 million of his stock holdings on Feb. 13, several days, according to ProPublica.
Burr also drew criticism Thursday after NPR reported that he gave stark warnings about the virus’s potential impact to an exclusive North Carolina group while making more muted statements to the public.
Loeffler, a freshman Georgia senator, sold as much as $3.1 million worth of stock from Jan. 24 — the day she attended a private coronavirus briefing — through Feb. 14, The Daily Beast reported Thursday. Loeffler — whose husband is chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange — also reportedly bought shares in the tech firm Oracle and Citrix, which provides teleworking software.
Some Democratic officials said Burr and Loeffler should be investigated and potentially disciplined — or even face criminal charges — for the suspiciously timed transactions.
“Senator Burr should resign and prepare to spend some quality time with a federal grand jury,” tweeted Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.).
“Senators Burr and Loeffler should be investigated by authorities and the Senate Ethics Committee,” former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro said on Twitter. “If the evidence suggests they engaged in insider trading, they should be charged and stand trial.”
Some observers have noted that Burr was one of just three senators to vote against the 2012 STOCK Act, which bans members of Congress from profiting from non-public information they learn on the job. Former Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara said congressional lawmakers “should not own individual stocks, period.”
“If you find out about a nation-threatening pandemic and your first move is to adjust your stock portfolio you should probably not be in a job that serves the public interest,” former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang said on Twitter.
Representatives for Burr and Loeffler did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday morning. But the senators have defended their stock trades amid the onslaught of criticism.
Loeffler said she leaves decisions about her investment portfolio to third-party advisers. “This is a ridiculous & baseless attack,” she tweeted early Friday, adding that she was informed of the trades on Feb. 16, after they were made.
“Senator Burr filed a financial disclosure form for personal transactions made several weeks before the US and financial markets showed signs of volatility due to the growing coronavirus outbreak,” a spokesperson for Burr told ProPublica.
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