This week, ProPublica and the Daily Beast reported that members of Congress sold equities after receiving briefings on the dangers of the novel coronavirus. The sales came before a global financial panic slashed stock prices around the world, and before the American public was broadly cognizant of the scale and danger of the virus.
Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sold off what looks like a large share of his personal holdings the day before Valentine’s Day, picking up between $628,000 and $1.72 million in cash. Roughly a week later, the market tanked. And Senator Kelly Loeffler, whose husband is the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, began selling equities on January 24, the day of an all-Senate briefing from officials including Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Through mid-February, her household dumped dozens of stocks and bought shares in Citrix, which makes teleworking software.
Both politicians have contested the allegation that they were trading on nonpublic information and putting themselves before their constituents. (Members of Congress are legally barred from buying and selling based on the information they get in classified briefings.) On Twitter, Loeffler said: “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.” She also posted a document indicating that she was informed of the trades in mid-February. Burr’s office said he sold his shares when the markets showed signs of volatility, implying he was acting on public information only.