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Leading N.C. Newspaper Says Sen. Burr Should Resign, Cites Lawsuit and SEC Warning

The Charlotte Observer’s editorial board on Thursday wondered why Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has not resigned from office.

“Burr has been abandoned by fellow Republicans, some of whom have called for his resignation. He’s been sued by a shareholder of Wyndham Hotels & Suites for selling off $150,000 of that company’s stock,” the editorial board said. “The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued a statement that, while not using Burr’s name, warned members of Congress about doing what the senator is accused of doing — trading off privileged information and briefings.”

It feels like an eternity but it’s only been a week since Burr’s stock dump ahead of the coronavirus-caused market crash sparked bipartisan outrage. Fellow Republican lawmakers, a Fox News host, and (though not directly at Burr) the Securities and Exchange Commission all took part in the criticism of such practices. An angry shareholder in Wyndham Hotels & Suites even sued Burr earlier this week for allegedly violating the STOCK Act and committing “elementary securities fraud.”

On Tuesday, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (D) piled on.

“The people of North Carolina deserve ethical and law-abiding public officials. The people also deserve to know whether Sen. Burr violated the STOCK Act or any other federal law by using non-public information to sell stocks and avoid losses,” Stein said. “Therefore, in addition to any review by the Senate Ethics Committee, I believe that a thorough and complete investigation by appropriate federal authorities is warranted. ”

The remarks from the state’s attorney general came one day after Burr was sued in federal court by Alan D. Jacobson.

“This lawsuit is brought to redress acts of securities fraud committed by Defendant Richard M. Burr, a United States Senator, who has acted as a scofflaw in a time of national crisis,” Jacobson alleged.

Burr has said that he relied “solely on public news reports” in making his investment decisions. He also said he asked the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee to “open a complete review” of his actions.

The Charlotte Observer said no such review is needed to determine whether Burr did something wrong. The editorial said Burr is “toxic to his party,” “embarrassing to North Carolina,” and that his “problems are not going to go away.”

“Burr has asked the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee to open ‘a complete review of the matter with full transparency,’ and others have called for the SEC to investigate. We believe those probes should begin promptly, and if they reveal that Burr, in fact, acted illegally upon insider information, he should obviously resign,” the scathing editorial continued. “But frankly, North Carolinians don’t need an agency or committee of Burr’s peers to tell us what he did was inexcusably wrong. In a crisis that will define his state and country for years, the senator failed in his most fundamental duty, to serve and protect the people who elected him.”

“And yet, Burr seems to have no intention of doing everyone a favor and resigning. Sadly, that’s not a surprise. At the moment we needed him most, Richard Burr was thinking mostly about himself,” the editorial board concluded. “One week later, that hasn’t changed.”

[Image via Win McNamee/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.