Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., dumped stock holdings worth millions ahead of the market plunge that began in February after they received briefings on the coronavirus, according to published reports Thursday.
Burr, the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sold the stocks on Feb. 13, ProPublica reported, citing disclosure filings.
Loeffler, who is married to New York Stock Exchange Chairman Jeffrey Sprecher, began dumping shares Jan. 24, after a private briefing for senators from administration officials, including the CDC director and Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institutes of Health, the Daily Beast reported.
Shares of the companies whose stocks she sold are down an average of 33%, since then, according to the report. Loeffler's sales totaled between $1,275,000 and $3,100,000, according to the report. Sprecher is CEO of Intercontinental Exchange Inc. (ICE) - Get Report, which operates several other exchanges in addition to the NYSE.
On Feb. 7, Burr wrote in an op-ed co-authored with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., that “the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus, in large part due to the work of the Senate Health Committee, Congress, and the Trump Administration.”
Earlier Thursday, NPR reported that Burr offered a far more dire forecast in comments in late February to a private luncheon organized by the Tar Heel Circle.
He warned that travel restrictions, school closures and military involvement could all come to pass, as indeed they have.
The NPR report described the circle as “a nonpartisan group whose membership consists of businesses and organizations in North Carolina, the state Burr represents. Membership to join the Tar Heel Circle costs between $500 and $10,000.”
Burr took to Twitter Thursday to complain about the NPR report, calling it tabloid journalism.
A spokesman for his office told ProPublica that “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.”
U.S. stock markets have seen the most abrupt move from all-time highs to bear market status (down 20%) in history over the past three weeks.
In 2012, Burr was one of only three senators to oppose legislation prohibiting insider trading by members of Congress.
Loeffler began serving in the Senate in January, after being appointed to the seat vacated by Sen. John Isakson, who resigned last year due to health concerns. She previously worked as an executive at Intercontinental Exchange.