Did elected members of Congress take advantage of the information they had to offload shares before Wall Street took the plunge? The question arises for two American senators who sold titles even though the authorities were still minimizing the threat of the new coronavirus for the United States.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Crew) association formally asked the Senate ethics committee to establish whether Republican politicians Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler committed “insider trading”, what they deny.
“We do not know if these senators sold their shares just before the markets collapsed on the basis of non-public information or if they sold for other reasons,” she wrote in her request for referral. . But “in these difficult times, any indication that a senator may have abused his office to avoid personal loss is a cause for deep concern”, continues the association.
Burr’s two faces
Senator Burr sold shares on February 13 for between $ 628,000 and $ 1.7 million, particularly in hotel groups and the tourism sector. These activities have since been hit hard by the measures taken to stem the pandemic.
As for Senator Loeffler, whose husband runs the New York Stock Exchange, she sold up to three million dollars in shares between the end of January and February 14. At that date, Republican President Donald Trump was still minimizing the risks of the Covid-19 for the United States, which has now infected 16,000 people, killed more than 210 people and plunged its economy into crisis.
On February 7, Richard Burr also signed a column on the Fox News site explaining that “the United States is today more prepared than ever to face threats like the coronavirus thanks to the work of the Senate Health Committee , Congress and the Trump administration. “
NPR radio broadcast a recording of Richard Burr on Thursday at a meeting of an upscale North Carolina club dating back to February 27. He was much more pessimistic there than in public. “I can tell you one thing: the coronavirus is transmitted much more easily than other viruses in recent history. It is more like the 1918 (Spanish flu) pandemic, ”he explained to wealthy members of the Tar Heel Circle.
“A ridiculous and baseless attack”
Richard Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Kelly Loeffler, a member of the Health Committee, had had access to the warnings from the health authorities, which is fueling suspicion against them.
“Burr knew how serious it would be,” said rising democrat star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “He must resign,” added the elected House, echoing other similar calls.
“My decision to sell the shares was based solely on public information,” said Senator Burr in a statement, adding that he himself asked the Senate ethics committee to investigate. Kelly Loeffler, she swept “a ridiculous and baseless attack” and assured that “the decisions concerning its portfolio of actions were taken by advisers” in investment only.
Other elected officials, including Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein or Republican James Inhofe, sold shares over this period, but were able to provide explanations, so they are not subject to Crew’s appeal.