Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) had several key pieces of information about the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) weeks ago and withheld that information from the public—but at the same time, he and his wife sold off upwards of $1.5 million in stocks that were negatively impacted by the market downturn due to the pandemic and resulting panic.
According to a federal financial disclosure form filed by Burr on behalf of himself and Brooke Burr, the couple sold off at least $581,000 worth—and up to $1.5 million worth—of stocks in major corporations that were hit particularly hard by the latest market plunge.
Those massive sell-offs occurred on February 13–just one week after writing a rosy assessment of the U.S. government’s response to the fast-spreading virus and disease in an op-ed published by Fox News and co-authored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).
Alexander and Burr gushed:
Thankfully, the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus, in large part due to the work of the Senate Health Committee, Congress, and the Trump Administration.
“The work of Congress and the administration has allowed U.S. public health officials to move swiftly and decisively in the last few weeks,” the two GOP senators continued.
Burr and his wife, however, quickly got to work liquidating their assets in several soon-to-be severely underwater hotel chains as well as multiple pharmaceuticals, alcohol and global data/technology stocks.
Per Karl Evers-Hillstrom’s OpenSecrets report:
Between the Burrs’ two accounts, they sold up to $150,000 worth of stock in Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, which lost almost two-thirds of its market value since Feb. 13. They sold up to $150,000 in Extended Stay America, another hotel company that lost half its value over the last month. Burr also sold between $15,001 and $50,000 of stock in Park Hotels & Resorts, which saw its stock price drop from nearly $24 to under $5…
Congressional financial disclosures display investment amounts in wide ranges. In total, the Burrs sold seven positions worth between $50,001 and $100,000, including shares of major companies AbbVie, Centurylink and Constellation Brands.
Law&Crime previously reported on Burr surreptitiously providing key Coronavirus information to his wealthy donors at a Washington, D.C. lunch several weeks ago—which also did not accord with the Tarheel GOPer’s more optimistic public statements.
The late Thursday disclosures that Burr has been profiting off of the pandemic while privy to such information are yet more fuel to an already raging fire of controversy and outrage.
The legal situation here is in dispute.
“Unless they traded on inside information, which would be securities fraud, at best they’re guilty of hypocrisy,” white collar criminal defense attorney and computer law expert Tor Ekeland told Law&Crime via email.
National security and federal employment attorney Bradley P. Moss had a somewhat different perspective.
“Senator Burr has some explaining to do, as these facts, on their face, are rather damning and clearly could implicate insider trading laws,” he said via email when asked about potential legal issues. “If there are legitimate explanations, the Senator would be well served by making those public immediately.”
Illegal, hypocritical or not—the prevailing opinion is that this shouldn’t be legal.
This cannot possibly be legal & if it is, CHANGE THE LAW https://t.co/ZeAesxaTge
— Stephanie Ruhle (@SRuhle) March 19, 2020
Former White House ethics counsel Walter Shaub noted that Burr previously voted against a bill which would have made it easier to prosecute members of Congress for insider trading.
[image via Win McNamee/Getty Images]