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Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., on Friday requested an ethics review into his own conduct after it emerged that he dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars in stocks in the run-up to the coronavirus crisis that sent the market into freefall.
“I relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks on February 13,” he said in a statement. “Specifically, I closely followed CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of its Asia bureaus at the time.
“Understanding the assumption many could make in hindsight however, I spoke this morning with the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee and asked him to open a complete review of the matter with full transparency.”
Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, used more than 30 transactions to dump between $628,000 and $1.72 million on Feb. 13, according to ProPublica.
The report said the transactions involved a significant percentage of the senator’s holdings and took place about a week before the impact of the virus outbreak sent stock prices plunging.
“Senator Burr filed a financial disclosure form for personal transactions made several weeks before the U.S. and financial markets showed signs of volatility due to the growing coronavirus outbreak,” a Burr spokesperson said in response to the report. “As the situation continues to evolve daily, he has been deeply concerned by the steep and sudden toll this pandemic is taking on our economy.”
Burr is one of a number of senators who are coming under scrutiny for their transactions ahead of the crisis as they received briefings on the matter.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who serves as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and her husband reported selling between $1.5 million and $6 million in stock in California biotech company Allogene Therapeutics, between Jan. 31 and Feb. 18, The New York Times reported.
When questioned by the newspaper, a spokesman said Feinstein wasn’t directly involved in the sale.
“All of Senator Feinstein’s assets are in a blind trust,” the spokesman, Tom Mentzer, told the Times. “She has no involvement in her husband’s financial decisions.”
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, sold stock Jan. 24, the same day she sat in on a briefing from two members of Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force, The Daily Beast reported.
In a tweet early Friday morning, Loeffler said the report was a “ridiculous & baseless attack" and that she doesn't make investment decisions for her portfolio.
“Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband's knowledge or involvement,” she tweeted.
In an interview Friday with Fox News’ Ed Henry, Loeffler again said any claim of insider trading is “absolutely false.”
She added, “I’m not involved in the decisions” of buying and selling, while saying she’d cooperate if any investigation is launched.
Meanwhile, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., sold as much as $400,000 in stock all on Jan. 27, in companies such as PayPal, Apple and real estate company Brookfield Asset Management, The New York Times reported.
But in a written statement, Inhofe pushed back by saying he was not at a late January briefing and, further, does not have involvement in investment choices.
The statement said: “The New York Times allegations are completely baseless and 100 percent false. I was not at the briefing on January 24. I was meeting with pro-life kids from Oklahoma here for the March for Life and the new nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania. I do not have any involvement in my investment decisions. In December 2018, shortly after becoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I instructed my financial advisor to move me out of all stocks and into mutual funds to avoid any appearance of controversy. My advisor has been doing so faithfully since that time and I am not aware of or consulted about any transactions.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.