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DOJ and SEC Investigating Lawmakers’ Stock Sell-Offs, FBI Contacted Sen. Burr

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are looking into several lawmakers who made substantial stock trades in advance of the market crash caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, CNN reported Monday.

The probe, which is still in its early stages, is centered on whether the lawmakers attempted to profit or stave off losses by making trades based on information obtained in confidential security briefings about the virus prior to the stock market crash.

According to the report, the central focus of the inquiry right now appears to be Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), whose decision to sell between $628,000 and $1.7 million on Feb. 13, has been widely derided by politicians and pundits from both sides of the aisle.

As previously reported by Law&Crime, at the same time Burr was preparing to sell-off a massive stock position, he also penned an op-ed for Fox News in which he and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) delivered an optimistic evaluation of the federal government’s response to the global pandemic, writing that “the United States is better prepared than ever before” for such a crisis.

Burr, whose role as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee gives him vast access to otherwise confidential reports, denied allegations that his trades were based on any non-public information in a statement. He said he relied “solely on public news reports” in making his investment decisions. He also asked the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee to “open a complete review” into his February trades.

“The law is clear that any American — including a Senator — may participate in the stock market based on public information, as Senator Burr did,” Burr’s attorney Alice Fisher said in a statement to CNN. “When this issue arose, Senator Burr immediately asked the Senate Ethics Committee to conduct a complete review, and he will cooperate with that review as well as any other appropriate inquiry.”

Several other lawmakers’s trades were flagged as suspicious, including Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) (her husband, is chairman of the New York Stock Exchange Jeffrey Sprecher), Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).

Each of these senators made public statements explaining away their decisions, and each denied wrongdoing.

Most recently, an angry shareholder sued Burr in federal court, accusing the senator of violating the STOCK Act.

[image via YouTube screengrab]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.