May 26, 2020 - Politics & Policy

DOJ closes insider trading probes of 3 senators, but not Richard Burr

Kelly Loeffler

Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Photo: Toni L. Sandys-Pool/Getty Images

The Justice Department is closing its inquiries into stock selloffs by Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that occurred after the lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

The big picture: The investigation into trades by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who stepped down as chair of Senate Intelligence Committee pending the results of the inquiry, is reportedly continuing. Burr's cell phone was seized by the FBI earlier this month.

  • Burr had more direct involvement in his trades than the senators, and claims he relied on CNBC reports coming out of Asia — not private briefings — to make his decisions.
  • Burr's sale of over $1.72 million of stock on Feb. 13 included stake in the hotel chains Wyndham and Extended Stay America.

Catch up quick: Loeffler, Inhofe and Feinstein sold off hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock following briefings in January that detailed the potential economic devastation of the coming pandemic.

  • Lawmakers are prohibited from insider trading via the 2012 "Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act," which blocks members of Congress and their staff from managing investment portfolios based on nonpublic information.

All three senators claim they had no personal involvement in the selloffs, and did not use their knowledge of the virus' incoming toll to influence the decisions of their investment managers.

  • Only Loeffler is up for re-election this year, and she is facing a hotly contested primary against Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.)
  • Polling shows the allegations of misconduct have hurt Loeffler's standing with constituents.
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