Mar 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Senate Intel chair sold up to $1.6 million in stock before market crash

Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) dumped between $582,029 and $1.56 million of his stocks on Feb. 13, days after writing a Fox News op-ed that said the U.S. is "better prepared than ever before" to face public health threats like the coronavirus, according to ProPublica.

Why it matters: Reuters reported on Feb. 27 that as chairman of the secretive committee, Burr had been receiving daily updates from the intelligence community about the outbreak.

  • NPR reported earlier Thursday that Burr struck a much darker tone on Feb. 27, telling a private luncheon of constituents that the coronavirus is "much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history."
  • "It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic," he added.
  • The stock market has dropped about 30% since Burr's sales.

Between the lines: Burr's sell-offs — which were executed between his op-ed and later warnings — included stocks in several companies that were set to be hit particularly hard by the coronavirus, according to ProPublica.

  • Up to $150,000 of his sold stocks were shares of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts. Up to $100,000 were shares of the hospitality chain Extended Stay America.
  • Tourism has been one of the hardest hit industries as travel has come to a virtual standstill as a result of the pandemic.

Worth noting: In 2012, Burr was one of only three senators to oppose a bill that would explicitly bar members of Congress and their staff from using non-public information for personal benefit, including stock-trading.

What they're saying:

“Senator Burr filed a financial disclosure form for personal transactions made several weeks before the U.S. and financial markets showed signs of volatility due to the growing coronavirus outbreak. As the situation continues to evolve daily, he has been deeply concerned by the steep and sudden toll this pandemic is taking on our economy.”
— A spokesperson told ProPublica

Burr's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Axios.

Go deeper

Burr asks Senate Ethics Committee to open probe into his stock trades

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) asked the Senate Ethics Committee on Friday to review his recent stock sell-offs.

What he's saying: Burr claimed that the trades, which came before the market crashed amid coronavirus fears, occurred because he "closely followed CNBC's daily health and science reporting out of its Asia bureaus at the time."

Lawsuit alleges securities fraud in Sen. Richard Burr's stocks sell-off

Sen. Richard Burr at the Senate floor in February. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) was hit with a federal lawsuit Monday over his sell-off of shares before the market crashed over concerns about the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Details: Wyndham Hotels and Resorts shareholder Alan Jacobson alleges "acts of securities fraud committed by [Burr]" and "abuse of his powers as a U.S. Senator" when he sold his $150,000 stake in the business. Burr strongly denies any wrongdoing and asked the Senate Ethics Committee Friday to review the sell-offs.

Richard Burr told constituents in February coronavirus was "akin to the 1918 pandemic"

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told a small, private group of constituents on Feb. 27 that the coronavirus outbreak was "akin to the 1918 pandemic," audio obtained by NPR shows.

Why it matters: "The 1918 pandemic," or the Spanish flu, killed millions worldwide — and Burr's comments directly contradicted those from President Trump on that same day, when the U.S. had 15 confirmed coronavirus cases.