Four U.S. senators — one Democrat and three Republicans — have come under fire after multiple reports detailing their significant stock sell-offs prior to the coronavirus-caused stock market crash.
Senate financial disclosure records show that ranking Senate Judiciary Committee member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Sen. James Inhoffe (R-OK) all sold off sizable amounts of stocks ahead of the market plummeting amid fears of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to federal records, Sen. Feinstein and her husband sold “between $1.5 million to $6 million worth of stock in Allogene Therapeutics, a California-based biotech company, in transactions that took place on Jan. 31 and Feb. 18.,” The New York Times, reported Thursday.
A spokesman for the senator told the Times that Feinstein had “no involvement” in the sell-off. “All of Senator Feinstein’s assets are in a blind trust,” spokesman Tom Mentzer told the paper. “She has no involvement in her husband’s financial decisions.”
Federal disclosure records show that Sen. Burr and his wife sold 33 different stocks on Feb. 13 that were worth in total $628,000 to $1.7 million, including “as much as $150,000 worth of stock in two hotel chains, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and Extended Stay America,” the Times notes. The senator also sold $65,000 worth of stock in Park Hotels & Resorts. Hotel and resort values have markedly declined amid the crisis.
Sen. Loeffler and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, likewise sold hundreds of thousands-worth of stocks ahead of the crash. Loeffler “reported the first sale of stock jointly owned by her and her husband on Jan. 24, the very day that her committee, the Senate Health Committee, hosted a private, all-senators briefing from administration officials, including the CDC director and Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on the coronavirus,” The Daily Beast reported Thursday.
“That first transaction was a sale of stock in the company Resideo Technologies valued at between $50,001 and $100,000,” the outlet reports. Over the next few days, the two made a total of 29 stock transactions, including one purchase “worth between $100,000 and $250,000 in Citrix, a technology company that offers teleworking software and which has seen a small bump in its stock price since Loeffler bought in as a result of coronavirus-induced market turmoil.”
In response to reports on the transactions, Loeffler tweeted Friday, “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. 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.”
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.
— Senator Kelly Loeffler (@SenatorLoeffler) March 20, 2020
Disclosure records show that Sen. Inhofe also sold hundreds of thousands in stocks, all of the transactions taking place on Jan. 27. The sales totaled as much as $400,000 and included holdings in PayPal, Apple and real estate company Brookfield Asset Management, the Times reports.
In its report on the financial actions of the four senators, the Times focuses more attention on Burr’s actions than the other senators in part because of his role as chairman of the Intelligence Committee and because of his clashing public and private statements:
The stocks were sold in mid-February, days after Mr. Burr, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote an opinion article for Fox News suggesting that the United States was “better prepared than ever before” to confront the virus. At least three other senators sold major stock holdings around the same time, disclosure records show.
Two weeks after Mr. Burr sold his stocks, he spoke at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington to a nonpartisan group called the Tar Heel Club, warning that the virus could soon cause a major disruption in the United States.