Two Republican senators have found themselves shrouded in scandal in the wake of reports linking them to insider trading before the stock market crashed on March 10.
Rabat – Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and Richard Burr are facing accusations of insider trading as reports show the American lawmakers sold millions of dollars in stocks before the market nose-dived due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
On Friday, January 24, the Senate Health Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a private meeting on COVID-19.
“Senators will have the opportunity to hear directly from senior government health officials regarding what we know about the virus so far, and how our country is prepared to respond as the situation develops,” Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray stated on January 23.
Senator Kelly Loeffler
“Appreciate today’s briefing from the President’s top health officials on the novel coronavirus outbreak,” Loeffler tweeted on January 24.
Appreciate today’s briefing from the President’s top health officials on the novel coronavirus outbreak. These men and women are working around the clock to keep our country safe and healthy. #gapol https://t.co/5866TrrEFc
— Senator Kelly Loeffler (@SenatorLoeffler) January 25, 2020
That same day, Loeffler and her husband sold their joint holding in Resideo Technologies, according to the Daily Beast. Analysts estimate the transaction was worth between $50,001 and $100,000.
The company’s stock price has since fallen by more than half, primarily thanks to plunging oil prices that triggered a 7% drop in indices on the New York Stock Exchange.
Loeffler and her husband, the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, proceeded to make 28 additional stock transactions reportedly worth between $1.275 million and $3.1 million through February 14.
After the market crashed on March 10, Loeffler tweeted out a message of reassurance.
Concerned about #coronavirus? Remember this:
The consumer is strong, the economy is strong, & jobs are growing, which puts us in the best economic position to tackle #COVID19 & keep Americans safe.
— Senator Kelly Loeffler (@SenatorLoeffler) March 10, 2020
Loeffler denied the accusations of insider trading, which is the illegal practice of trading on the stock exchange to one’s own advantage through having access to confidential information.
“This is a ridiculous and baseless attack. I do not make investment decisions for my portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband’s knowledge or involvement,” the Georgian senator tweeted on March 19.
“As confirmed in the periodic transaction report to Senate Ethics, I was informed of these purchases and sales on February 16, 2020—three weeks after they were made.”
Loeffler is the newest and wealthiest member of Congress, with a fortune estimated at $500 million.
Senator Richard Burr
Burr, who voted against legislation banning “congressional insider trading” in 2012, allegedly sold between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his stock holdings in 33 separate transactions on February 13, according to ProPublica.
A week after Burr cashed in, the market began to decline until reaching a historic low and 15-minute suspension on March 10.
Burr’s shady dealings were exposed on March 19 after National Public Radio (NPR) acquired a confidential recording from February 27 in which the senator warned “a small group of well-connected constituents” at an exclusive social club of the economic impact of COVID-19.
The briefing he offered the group was direr than what he had told the public in his role as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, ProPublica reported.
“There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history,” Burr said in the recording. “It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”
Burr responded to the NPR report on Twitter: “In a tabloid-style hit piece today, NPR knowingly and irresponsibly misrepresented a speech I gave last month about the coronavirus threat,” Burr wrote.
“This lunch was hosted on Feb. 27 by the North Carolina State Society. It was publicly advertised and widely attended. NPR knew, but did not report, that attendees also included many non-members, bipartisan congressional staff, and representatives from the governor’s office,” he continued.
“COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation. To know if we’ve been successful in stemming it, we have to keep an accurate accounting of our nation’s response. Purposefully misleading listeners for the sake of a ‘narrative,’ like NPR has done, makes us less safe,” the senator concluded.
— Richard Burr (@SenatorBurr) March 20, 2020