Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Staff

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was one of several senators who came under fire last week after disclosing that they had sold large amounts of stock just before large swaths of the American economy shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The big picture: Many of Johnson's colleagues should indeed be scrutinized by the SEC and/or the Department of Justice, but Johnson himself hasn't done anything worthy of investigation.

The backdrop: Johnson's job before becoming a U.S. senator was CEO of Pacur, an Oshkosh, Wis.-based plastic sheeting manufacturer that had been founded by his brother-in-law under a different name (and with a different primary product).

  • The pair sold Pacur in 1986 but Johnson remained an employee. In 1997 he bought the company back.
  • Johnson was elected to the Senate in 2010.
  • A source says that Pacur began seeking to sell in early 2019, hiring an investment bank to launch an auction process that would result in bids from multiple private equity firms and strategics.
  • Over the holidays it picked an offer from Gryphon Investors. Papers were formally signed in early January with March 1 set as the closing date.
  • Gryphon's purchase of a majority stake always included Johnson's entire remaining position, which the source says was 5%. It bought the rest of its shares from other Johnson family members, who rolled over some of their stock into a minority stake.

The bottom line: This was a vanilla private equity deal that was negotiated before almost anyone had heard of coronavirus. Johnson, who has said several wrong-headed things about the pandemic, didn't trade on insider information.

Go deeper: Trump signals an economic pivot on coronavirus shutdowns

Go deeper

Coronavirus bankrupts Cirque du Soleil

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The fate of Cirque du Soleil will be decided in a courtroom, not under the big top.

Driving the news: The live events giant yesterday filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada and confirmed furloughs of around 3,500 employees.

15 mins ago - Health

U.S., Canada and U.K. accuse Russia of trying to steal coronavirus vaccine research

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin\TASS via Getty Images

Hackers associated with Russian intelligence services are trying to steal information from researchers involved in coronavirus vaccine development, according to a joint advisory by U.K., U.S. and Canadian authorities published Thursday.

The big picture: This isn't the first time a foreign adversary has been accused of attempting to steal COVID-19-related research. U.S. officials in May announced an uptick in Chinese-government affiliated hackers targeting medical research and other facilities in the U.S. for data on a potential cure or effective treatments to combat the virus.

M&A activity falls despite early coronavirus fears

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In April, several prominent Democrats proposed a moratorium on large mergers and acquisitions. Their argument was that the pandemic would embolden the strong to pounce on the weak, thus reducing competition.

Fast forward: The moratorium never materialized. Nor did the M&A feeding frenzy.