March 20, 2020

"Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., sold as much as $1.7 million in stocks just before the market dropped in February amid fears about the coronavirus epidemic."

"Senate records show that Burr and his wife sold between roughly $600,000 and $1.7 million in more than 30 separate transactions in late January and mid-February, just before the market began to fall and as government health officials began to issue stark warnings about the effects of the virus. Several of the stocks were in companies that own hotels.... Most of them came on Feb. 13, just before Burr made a speech in North Carolina in which he predicted severe consequences from the virus, including closed schools and cutbacks in company travel.... Burr told the small North Carolina audience that the virus was 'much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history' and 'probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.' Burr’s remarks were much more dire than remarks he had made publicly, and came as President Donald Trump was still downplaying the severity of the virus. There is no indication that Burr had any inside information as he sold the stocks and issued the private warnings. The intelligence panel did not have any briefings on the pandemic the week when most of the stocks were sold...."

The NYT reports. (Also: "Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a new senator who is up for re-election this year, sold off hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock in late January, as senators began to get briefings on the virus, also according to Senate records.")

That's the NYT. I'm seeing a much harsher attack on Burr from the right:

ADDED: Here's the Wikipedia artcile on Richard Burr. I just want to quote the "Personal life" section in its entirety:
Burr's car, a 1973 Volkswagen Thing, is "something of a local celebrity" on Capitol Hill. Burr has a known aversion to reporters, once even climbing out of his office window while carrying his dry cleaning to avoid them. Burr is a member of the United Methodist Church.

CC emw.

The broken windshield is an interesting touch.

80 comments:

exhelodrvr1 said...

DOn't jump to conclusions - there is potential that this was done without their knowledge.

The Vault Dweller said...

He sold his stock in mid February. Corona was a thing then. Granted mainly in China and surrounding countries, but it was definitely public knowledge. As a Senator he has no capacity to personally order anything. At the date of the sale it was still weeks before Trumps order to halt incoming flights from China. Which I think was March 1st. And I doubt Trump had that planned a couple weeks prior. I also remember Trump being criticized for his "overreaction", regarding the flight cancellations. This looks just like a careful person who was ahead of the curve.

That being said it still looks bad and this is why members of congress should put their portfolios in a blind trust.

iowan2 said...

My broker took me out of the market and didn't tell me for several days. I had a hint when I got a weekly group e mail explaining his take on the markets.
So is this a Biden moment,"no controlling legal authority"? or more of a "I have broken no laws" Clinton's wife thing?

But we are all pulling to together on battling COVID-19

wendybar said...

How do you think Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein got as rich as they have?? (Back when it wasn't illegal for Congress to do insider trading??) (Amongst MANY others??)

Money Manger said...

My portfolio is down hard. I’m angry. I need someone to direct this anger towards. Burr will do. Fortunately he’s a Republican, that makes it so much easier.

Ann Althouse said...

"Fortunately he’s a Republican, that makes it so much easier."

Explain why the liberal NYT is so much kinder than the right-wing Cernovich and Carlson.

Your comment seems knee-jerk. It doesn't fit the facts!

Ann Althouse said...

"So is this a Biden moment,"no controlling legal authority"?"

You mean Gore.

And there's plenty of legal authority on insider trading.

Tom T. said...

Fox is reporting that Feinstein and Inhofe sold stock as well.

John Lynch said...

Not like this was inside information. Don't see the problem.

Are they implying that he caused the pandemic? No.

Or that he had special knowledge of it? Seems to me we all did.

Is it that he didn't warn everyone? OK, I get that. But the facts were all out there for everyone to see. It would have mattered if one more public figure had said, "Hey guys, this is serious"?

Eh. Plenty of real targets in this debacle. Starting with the President. It's not like a Senator can do very much about responding to a pandemic- that's executive branch.

BUMBLE BEE said...

I'm reminded of the need for the Queue Laws, (rationing), in England in WWII. Serious business... "Hey No Cuts". Legislators are often disappointments. They make poor governors too.

rehajm said...

Congress gets away with acting based on what legislation will pass. One of the many ways they end up wealthy on a 'modest' salary.

BarrySanders20 said...

Was this substantially all of his assets? We are back to a numerator and denominator issue. He may have suffered losses in other accounts. Also, are senators required to hold all assets or publicly disclose every time they buy or sell? Was he telling everyone not to sell while he did? Doesn’t seem so. Btw, I don’t like or trust Burr, just see more than one possible explanation here.

Temujin said...

I've been looking at the market for 2 years knowing that something was going to burst. No one had any idea it would be a global pandemic, but anyone paying attention to the market had to know that what goes up, comes down. (I have some friends to 'went to cash' months ago worrying about something coming). That said...we all saw the rise of this virus. The Senators (and I'm sure many congresspeople, staffers, and Journalists!) may have had more direct, deeper access to information, but I'm not sure this is a crime.

I saw the virus grow. I read a lot and I read plenty of scenarios that took us to today. Yet I sat on my hands. I looked at my accounts a week ago and...well...let's just say the plan for my wife and I to retire at the end of this year has been changed to a 'future date yet to be selected'. Such is life.

If you were in a position to read these classified reports, or just have access to better info than the general public, what would you do? Would you sit back and take the hit? I don't think I would have. I had enough info to make a move 4 weeks ago. I did not. I'm not blaming Sens. Barr of Loeffler for that. I don't get this "let's find someone and hang 'em" approach by the press. They'll whip up a frenzy on these people. I don't think it's merited. They could not tell the public to pull everything and create the earlier mass panic. That would have just speeded up the dump.

I don't see this as 'insider trading'. I see this as being in the right place at the right time- their job- to get information that they used to protect themselves and their familes. I would have done the same. I would bet some Journalists! did the same thing.

rhhardin said...

If it's not inside information, it's okay. Place your own bets and take the consequences.

Mr. D said...

Explain why the liberal NYT is so much kinder than the right-wing Cernovich and Carlson.

Your comment seems knee-jerk. It doesn't fit the facts!


Because Burr, working with Sen. Warner of Virginia, hasn't done much to help Trump in the Senate Intelligence Committee. In some important ways, he's pushed the collusion narrative along. Many on the right view Burr as being really swampy. So yeah, if this is true, to hell with him.

rhhardin said...

Even trading on inside information gives the counterparty in the sale a better price than he would have gotten otherwise.

Big Mike said...

Point of information. I believe that Congress continues to exempt itself from insider trading regulations. Also Trump restricted travel from China on January 31st.

Kevin said...

Pikers!

Chelsea Clinton and Hunter Biden probably sold short.

TreeJoe said...

As far as I can tell he accurately saw what was coming from predominantly public information and either he or his financial manager sold a bunch of stock.

What's obviously and painfully missing here: What % of his portfolio did he sell off. 20%? 50%? 100%?

If he sold 20-40% of his portfolio but kept the rest of equities and bonds, then he took a smart precautionary cash position ahead of tremendous volatility. And this would be evidence AGAINST inside knowledge.

If he sold 100% of his portfolio and went all-in on cash, that would be much more indicative of "inside knowledge"....

Also from the financial disclosures I've seen he sold between ~$600k and $1.7 million - again, a fairly large range.

Lot of tempest in a teapot here without enough supporting information.

Paul Snively said...

Arrest him? For what? That's a serious question. It's not a crime to sell your assets.

CStanley said...

Because Burr, working with Sen. Warner of Virginia, hasn't done much to help Trump in the Senate Intelligence Committee. In some important ways, he's pushed the collusion narrative along. Many on the right view Burr as being really swampy. So yeah, if this is true, to hell with him.

Yes. See Sundance at Conservative Treehouse blog. If this takes him down there are many on the right who will say good riddance.

A different situation is Kelly Loeffler here in GA, who is a Trump Republican, so it will be interesting to see ho what plays out.

Ty said...

BarrySanders20 said...

Also, are senators required to hold all assets or publicly disclose every time they buy or sell?


Looks like the most current answer is "sort of".

Jeff said...

I don't see the problem. It is neither inconsistent nor dishonest to publicly call for calm and counsel against overreaction or panic, while at the same time privately expecting those efforts might fail.

rhhardin said...

I sold everything two weeks before the 1987 market crash but so far the Feds have overlooked it.

Everything but 200 shares of I think Transway mistakenly credited to my account after a stock split. It stayed in the account for about five years and then disappeared, along with its dividends. Somebody finally traced the mistake and found the shares, I guess.

Lurker21 said...

The sell-offs could have been initiated by a clever broker, rather than by the Burrs, and the line between "insider knowledge" and "common knowledge" is a blurry one.

I am concerned about the Thing, though - the VW Jeep or K├╝belwagen. Is it better that our political establishment remain gray and staid and earnest, or that they take up wild partisanship and festoon their automobiles with in-your-face bumperstickers? It's hard to say, but it seems like there's a lot of play-acting in the political classes. If you manage to get elected to Congress, you are de facto a member of the Establishment with a stake in the status quo, and all of the partisan and factional rhetoric may be just window-dressing to keep getting yourself reelected.

Fernandistein said...

Even trading on inside information gives the counterparty in the sale a better price than he would have gotten otherwise.

Dianna Moon Glampers would approve of people not being able to use their knowledge until other people (who?) have the same knowledge.

It's like not being allowed to patent or build something until other people have the same idea.

"Friedman: Well, insider trading is illegal. There are people going to jail for insider trading and I think it has been a great mistake. You want more insider trading, not less. You want to give the people most likely to have knowledge about deficiencies of the company an incentive to make the public aware of that."

Doesn't apply to legislators, who might, and probably would, legislate based on their own potential profits.

Ralph L said...

He was my congresscritter for a while, before we were switched back to the late great Howard Coble and his go-to-hell plaid sportcoats. I'm sick of judges dicking with the electoral map.

M Jordan said...

Tucker Carlson, who I like on Tuesdays, hate on Wednesdays, and so on, needs to recalibrate his outrage. He’s been so good on many topics but is given towards extreme hyperbole and virtue outrage. He also has been dead wrong on several issues. He for months mocked Biden’s chances of becoming the nominee. Well, that was wrong.

Tucker reminds me of the smartest kid in the gifted class who starts to believes his own bullshit ideas. He needs to grow up.

Browndog said...

Some people are going to regret throwing Martha Stewart in prison.

Browndog said...

It looks to me like many are giving him the benefit of the doubt and I'm not sure that would be the case if his name was Nancy Pelosi.

He sold the stock after receiving a classified briefing on the spread of the China virus while stating publicly that everything is going to be fine.

Jail.

Lucien said...

There is lots of authority about insider trading, so start with the definition of “insider”. Does it include someone without connections to the company whose securities are involved (or to a possible M&A target or acquirer)? This may turn out to be governed by Senate ethics rules rather than the SEC.

narciso said...

as the host of another blog points out, the times doesn't read their own reporting, I wouldn't blame them, yes burr was warner's enabler on the committee,

Freeman Hunt said...

'30 separate transactions in late January and mid-February"

It was obvious that this was going to happen by then. No special briefing required.

Kai Akker said...

It is against the law to think. No one, especially not a Senator, should be allowed to draw any conclusions about the world from ongoing news events. He should not sell until every single one of his constituents had the chance to sell their stock.

Amadeus 48 said...

I think Burr has been very unpopular with the right wing of the GOP. Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he has appeared to be too close to the devious Mark Warner (some say in Warner's pocket) in keeping the Russia collusion controversy going, even as the whole thing was shot to ribbons internally very early in the game. If Warner was the Senate's Adam Schiff, Burr was definitely NOT the Senate's Devin Nunes.

A lot of GOPers would like to see Burr gone, albeit replaced by another Republican. I don't care for Burr myself, but this is how majorities are lost. By the way, Loeffler may blow up in Trump's face. Great.

The market was at an all-time high when Burr sold, and I doubt the Senate heard anything that you couldn't read in WSJ, NYT, and WaPoop.

Ann Althouse said...

People who can’t tell the difference between what’s a crime and what makes them mad.

mockturtle said...

I'm with Tucker on this. After all, Martha Stewart went to prison.

Kevin said...

People who can’t tell the difference between what’s a crime and what makes them mad.

This is not a thread about Nancy Pelosi.

Yet.

Kai Akker said...

People who can’t tell the difference between what’s a crime and what makes them mad.

Like Cernovich. Shows he is just another Jacobin, only on the right.

rehajm said...

Material non-public information and only if you're an insider. Insider didn't apply to legislators capitalizing on knowledge of pending legislation until sometime after about 2010. Still hard to prove and congress is still getting away with it...

...that said fair or not it's nature to abhor those appearing to profit from crisis. Short sellers, price gougers and hoarders first in line...

rehajm said...

...or linked to an insider, I should add...

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AZ Bob said...

His selling stock is acceptable but the evil is telling the public not to panic and then selling.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Hillary still gets to set up a private Server to run her-> State Department in secret. Ignore the money that flowed into Clinton Family Foundation coffers.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Burr's net worth is 1.7 mil?

He's a piker compared to most democrat-for-life pols.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Still no word from CNN or Maddow (10 million a year Maddow) on Joe Biden/Hunter Biden international money laundering using tax payer dollars to enrich Hunter with a bogus "job" at a Ukrainian energy company.

Douglas said...

What specifically were the material facts that Burr knew that the public didn’t. The interpretation of publicly known facts doesn’t count. I haven’t seen anything on this.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

These kinds of stock sales that look like insider knowledge dumping are really bad. But we shall note that when the D's get caught with anything, no one in the D-hack press has a word to say about it.

bagoh20 said...

Of course he sold. Who the hell wouldn't? Jesus would have sold it. Is he just supposed to watch his money go away when he can prevent it by simply using public knowledge?

bagoh20 said...

In the same situation, every single critic would have done the same thing.

Kai Akker said...


I've been looking at the market for 2 years knowing that something was going to burst. No one had any idea it would be a global pandemic, but anyone paying attention to the market had to know that what goes up, comes down. (I have some friends to 'went to cash' months ago worrying about something coming).

Exactly right, IMO, from Temujin at 6:25 a.m. The virus has added to the speed, but business conditions had been softening for many months before this. Something else is also involved here. First, stock valuations had exceeded the 2000 bubble peak and well exceeded the second-highest multiples level before --1929 -- by the February high. The SPX was 131% above its long-term trend line, the most ever.

So stocks were ripe for profit-taking on any disappointing news.

But remember how they got that high. Every time there was the beginning of a correction in prices, from 2010 on, the Federal Reserve jumped in with some Quantitative Easing. There was QE; then QE2, QE3, and finally QEternity. What Ben Bernanke did, and then a little more from Janet Yellen, was no different from forestry officers putting out every little fire. Eventually the underbrush builds up so thickly that the forest will go up in a major conflagration.

Stocks will rally at times. But the long-term SPX trend line regression is reportedly at 1422 or thereabouts. There is still plenty of room on the downside. How it will unfold, no one knows but history shows it almost always regresses to the mean, especially from the major high-side extremes.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

The article goes on about Burr for 22 paragraphs, THEN they reveal Sen. Feinstein sold more than Burr and Loefler combined, but it wasn’t cool to lead with that information. It doesn’t support the narrative.

Michael said...

Was the information he (they) received material? Why, yes, it was. Was the information he (they) received public? Why, no, it was not.

Were you on a board of directors and were trading on material non public news you would go to jail. They are all scum.

Michael said...

What did he learn in that meeting? That travel restrictions were possible, even imminent? Did you know that? Would you have bought DAL if you knew that? HILTON? Expedia?

bagoh20 said...

R/V, If you knew your stock was going to plummet like that, you wouldn't sell it?

John Marzan said...

@althouse "Explain why the liberal NYT is so much kinder than the right-wing Cernovich and Carlson.

Your comment seems knee-jerk. It doesn't fit the facts! "

Burr has been far less than worthless as chair of Senate Intel. The only thing his committee is known for other than perpetuating the Russia collusion hoax is the arrest of a staffer for lying about leaks against Carter Page.

https://thefederalist.com/2020/03/20/insider-trading-scandal-is-just-latest-reason-burr-should-be-removed-as-intel-chair/

Burr is Sen. Warner's bitch. Replacing him as Intel committee chair with somebody who is willing to get tougher with the Deep State is high priority . The MAGA types also wanted RINO Loeffler replaced with MAGA trumpster Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

"All of Senator Feinstein’s assets are in a blind trust."


what a pant load.

Feinstein and her hubby have been insider government dealers for a long long long time.

bagoh20 said...

You can't expect people to ignore what they know and take huge personal losses unless it's important to the national interest. Every investor has a different level of information. There is no equality out there, but it does seem grossly unfair here. I'm not sure what to do about it, except divest when you take the job.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Feinstein, a California Democrat, sold $500,001 to $1 million worth of stock in a company called Allogene Therapeutics on Jan. 31, less than a month before panic about the virus caused markets to plunge, Senate records show. Her husband sold $1,000,001 to $5 million worth of Allogene shares on Feb. 18, according to financial disclosures.

And Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, dumped as much as $400,000 worth of stock on Jan. 27, records show. He sold shares in five different companies including Apple, PayPal and Brookfield Asset Management, according to a disclosure report.



Looks like Finstein's were all stocks related to health care.
wow that's bad. worse that all of the others.

Bay Area Guy said...

Burr is a DC swamp creature. Needs to be sent home.

bagoh20 said...

Blind trust is bullshit. I suspect that when the right person sends the right message through the right channel, trades get made. Otherwise you are saying it's just a coincidence. Maybe, but I don't believe it.

mockturtle said...

Mike [MJB Wolf] observes: The article goes on about Burr for 22 paragraphs, THEN they reveal Sen. Feinstein sold more than Burr and Loefler combined, but it wasn’t cool to lead with that information. It doesn’t support the narrative.

At least Fox Business News addressed this issue this morning. Feinstein has concocted an impressive array of excuses, of course.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Feinstein and her Husband, Richard Blum, are long time government money grubbing money whores.

But all is OK - because D. D. D. D. D-e-m-o-c-r-a-t. Sacred!

Sacred! Sacred! Sacred... D! sing it with me..


Government Says Company Part-Owned by Feinstein’s Husband Abuses Post Office Contract

Francisco D said...

Lot of tempest in a teapot here without enough supporting information.

How many people here are so close to their investments that they can order selling or buying at a moment's notice?

My money is with a large investment firm that uses their experts to make buying and selling decisions. They run Monte Carlo trials to test the likelyhood of success. I cannot call them up and say "dump my stock in ..."

Martha Stewart went to jail because there was clear evidence that she specifically directed her broker to sell. Until they have evidence that these senators did the same, it is a tempest in a teapot.

eddie willers said...

A different situation is Kelly Loeffler here in GA, who is a Trump Republican, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Loeffler is Michael Bloomberg in a skirt. If you wondered why millionaires and billionaires fight so hard for a job that pays less than dividends, here's your answer.

Blind trust or not, we must not let a crisis go to waste. Use this to elect Doug Collins over her and primary her enabler, Gov. Kemp!

PS. Trump was all in for Collins over Loeffler and didn't show her any love until it was a fait accompli.

Iman said...

Burr was already bad news, with his nose up Democrat asses. Not happy with his overly generous government pension and benefits, he’s looking to feather his retirement nest.

n.n said...

What part and percentage of his portfolio did he sell and when. There were diverse reasons to reduce positions, not limited to progress of the pandemic. So, if there is probable cause, follow the rule of law and due process. Throw NYT and other witch hunters in the fire, and add the overreactionaries to the pot.

Greg the class traitor said...

bagoh20 said...
You can't expect people to ignore what they know and take huge personal losses

Yes, we can and do.

That is why "insider trading" laws EXIST.

If you received a classified briefing showing "the world is going to hell in a handbasket", then you can either:
A: Go out and tell people that everything is fine
Exclusive OR
B: Dump a bunch of stock before everyone finds out, and the markets tank

If you do both, then you should be one of the people who goes up against the wall after the market crashes.

Burr apparently did both

Temujin said...

If there are not 20 other Senators and/or congresspeople who sold off stocks 4 weeks ago, I'll eat my hat. Including Elizabeth Warren. Anyone with a brain and eyes on what was happening could see this coming. Why wouldn't you dump stocks if you had solid information to do so?

In fact, if our people in the Senate and House had that info and did not get what it meant, it would not say much about our leaders and their understanding of economics. And I have to say, I stand accused as well. I stared at it, but did not react.

How do we find out how much Lizzie sold off?

Greg the class traitor said...

Burr claims he knew to dump the stocks only because he was a CNBC SuperFan, and not because he got a classified briefing.

"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.


So, unlike the other three "Senate sellers" there was no blind trust. Burr got the briefings, then decided what publicly reported news best backed up what he got from the classified briefings, then decided to dump his stocks while using his position as "Senior Senator who got classified briefings" to lie to the rest of us, and keep us in the market while he was getting out.

Those 30 transactions took some time. He made a lot more money because the rest of us were kept in the dark.

This is the kind of thing that, if unpunished, destroys people's trust in society. burr needs to be punished for it

Big Mike said...

The broken windshield is an interesting touch.

It's not as though a DC cop is going to issue a ticket for driving with a broken windshield to a Senator of either party, let alone a committee chair. I do note the absence of any Trump stickers on his bumper.

Rabel said...

There's nothing that Burr could have known that could be considered "inside information" because nothing was known at that point - everything was speculation and guesswork. For the most part, everything is still speculation and guesswork. If there was "classified information" available that nailed down the future course of the pandemic, they did a damn good job of hiding it from everyone.

I think Burr is a twit but this is dumb and petty.

minnesota farm guy said...

No matter how you try to dress this up it's insider trading plain and simple.

Michael said...

Rabel

If there was a conversation about curtailing travel he had information the public did not have.

Michael said...

Directors of public companies know the results of Quarterly earnings before the public does. For a period before the release of earnings directors are prohibited from buying or selling shares in the company they serve. This period is known as the blackout. Once the public has the information the directors have the blackout is lifted and they can trade.

Douglas said...

My 28-year-old son, who works as a software product manager, and has no inside information or even any financial training, was able to figure out what was going to happen from publicly available information and sell all his shares before the markets started tanking. There were no secrets here. There were some doctors and analysts predicting a serious pandemic with tens of millions sick and hundreds of thousand or millions killed. There were also others predicting it wouldn't be anywhere that bad. The future was unknown. Big unknowns with big downsides are bad for equities. Q.E.D.

Douglas said...

"Martha Stewart went to jail because there was clear evidence that she specifically directed her broker to sell." -- I'm sorry to be a nitpicker about this, but Martha Stewart was not charged with, let alone convicted of, insider trading. The feds were investigating her for possible insider trading and she was convicted of obstructing that investigation. But they never charged here for the underlying crime, I presume because she didn't commit it. Why else would they have forgone an additional 5-10?

Douglas said...

P.S. We still don't know how bad the pandemic is going to be, or how badly the government will screw up the economy trying to stop the unknown, which is why the markets are still falling - no one knows what the bottom might be for the economy. Where's the inside information in this? What were the material facts that were hidden from the public that our esteemed senators knew? Of course it looks terrible politically, but I do not think these senators have any legal risk from the DOJ.

Kai Akker said...

Douglas is correct about M Stewart. And the market had soared insanely in those last few months before the New Year. Tesla had gone from 250 in late October, to a few bucks shy of 1,000 in early February, when Wuhan headlines were coming fast and furious. A quadruple in just over three months? Which was emblematic of CrazyDaze in the market. Many stocks were shooting up silly. For the market to make a high during the really bad part of the Wuhan attack was one of the strangest phenomena I have ever seen. That was a top for the ages.

@Michael, there was no inside information that Burr needed, IMO. It's all over the newspapers. These last two years in the market were not typical.

Rockport Conservative said...

Today's news tells us Sen. Finestein also profited mightily. If NYTimes had wanted to, they could have included her in this report.
(I have no idea how Sen. Diane's name is going to be spelled here, spellcheck is giving many options, including intestines.)