Mar 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

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."

"I relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks on February 13. Specifically, I closely followed CNBC's daily health and science reporting out of its Asia bureaus at the time. Understanding the assumption many could make in hindsight, however, I spoke this morning with the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and asked him to open a complete review of the matter with full transparency."

The state of play: Burr sold 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 the coronavirus outbreak.

  • The sales included stocks in several companies that were set to be hit particularly hard by the coronavirus, including in the hotel and hospitality industries.
  • Reuters reported on Feb. 27 that, as Senate Intel chairman, Burr had been receiving daily updates from the intelligence community about the outbreak.
  • He also told a private luncheon of constituents in February that the coronavirus is "much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history."

Read Burr's letter.

Go deeper: Trump brushes off coronavirus as reason for stock market plunge

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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.

Lawmakers come under scrutiny for stock sales

Sens. Diane Feinstein, Ron Johnson and Kelly Loeffler. Photos: Getty Images

Several U.S. senators have come under fire for making large stock trades while President Trump and other federal officials publicly downplayed the novel coronavirus threat, but after the lawmakers received a private briefing on the potential seriousness of COVID-19.

The state of play: The trades have sparked insider trading accusations, but it's impossible to know for sure without an investigation by the Justice Department or the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Stocks jump 4% after coronavirus sell-off

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Stocks closed up more than 4% on Wednesday afternoon, erasing all of yesterday's losses. The S&P 500 is 7.5% below record levels seen in mid-February.

Driving the news: The gains in the stock market were led by health care stocks, which analysts say got a boost from a strong Super Tuesday performance by Joe Biden — a candidate whose policies would be more favorable to the sector than those of Bernie Sanders. UnitedHealth, the country's biggest health insurer, had its best day in 10 years.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 4, 2020 - Economy & Business