Senators Sold Stocks After Receiving Briefings on New Virus From China

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news.
March 20, 2020Updated: March 22, 2020

At least five U.S. Senators’ stocks were sold after receiving sensitive briefings on the CCP virus in the early weeks of what ultimately became a pandemic.

The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.

Stocks held by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), and David Purdue (R-Ga.) were sold around the time they were receiving closed-door briefings on the CCP virus in January.

Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sold between $628,000 and $1.7 million of his stocks on Feb. 13, according to Senate financial disclosures. A week later, the stock market began to decline.

Stock market transactions from senators are reported in ranges.

The biggest sales from Burr included stocks from Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, a company that has lost significant value amid the pandemic, and shares of Extended Stay America, a hospitality chain that has also seen a decrease in value amid the spread of the CCP virus.

Burr on Feb. 7 penned an op-ed with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) telling Americans the country “is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus.” At a private meeting on Feb. 27, Burr told business leaders that the new illness created a situation “akin to the 1918 pandemic,” according to a recording obtained by NPR.

Burr called the NPR article about the recording “a tabloid-style hit piece.”

Epoch Times Photo
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 14, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

“The message I shared with my constituents is the one public health officials urged all of us to heed as coronavirus spread increased: Be prepared,” he said.

In a statement to news outlets about the stock sales, a Burr spokesperson said that the senator “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.”

“As the situation continues to evolve daily, he has been deeply concerned by the steep and sudden toll this pandemic is taking on our economy,” the spokesperson added.

Feinstein, the oldest member of Congress, who has been in office since 1992, sold between $1.5 million and $6 million in stock from a California biotech company called Allogene Therapeutics, according to disclosure forms. The sales were made between Jan. 31 and Feb. 18.

Allogene was selling for around $22 a share for the sales and has since dipped to $20.29 a share.

Feinstein said in a statement Friday that she’s held all of her assets in a blind trust since she assumed office.

“Under Senate rules I report my husband’s financial transactions. I have no input into his decisions. My husband in January and February sold shares of a cancer therapy company. This company is unrelated to any work on the coronavirus and the sale was unrelated to the situation,” she said in a statement.

Epoch Times Photo
Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) walks through Statuary Hall with other senators to the House Chamber for President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in the Capitol in Washington on Feb. 4, 2020. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Loeffler, who replaced retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) in early January, disclosed sales of between $1.3 million and $3.1 million. Stocks she sold included Exxon Mobil Corporation, a worldwide oil company, and Resideo Technologies, a company that makes smart home products.

Loeffler also purchased a number of stocks, including up to $250,000 in Citrix, a company that sells software helping people working from home, according to disclosure forms.

People across the nation are working from home as businesses voluntarily close, or are forced to close, in attempts to stop the spread of the CCP virus.

Loeffler responded to stories about her stock sales on Twitter, writing: “I want to set the record straight: This is a ridiculous & baseless attack. I don’t make investment decisions for my portfolio. Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without my or my husband’s knowledge or involvement.”

Loeffler said she wasn’t informed of the sales and purchases until Feb. 16, three weeks after they were made.

Inhofe’s sales included Paypal and Brookfield Asset Management, a real estate company. He sold between $230,006 and $500,000 in stocks. Inhofe said in a statement that allegations made against him, including the claim he was at a Jan. 24 briefing, were “completely baseless and 100 percent false.”

“I do not have any involvement in my investment decisions. In December 2018, shortly after becoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I instructed my financial advisor to move me out of all stocks and into mutual funds to avoid any appearance of controversy. My advisor has been doing so faithfully since that time and I am not aware of or consulted about any transactions,” he added.

Purdue sold between $148,050 and $995,000 in stocks while he bought between $141,043 and $890,000 in new shares, including stocks in Disney and Delta Airlines, two companies that have struggled amid the pandemic.

Epoch Times Photo
Sen. David Purdue (R-Ga.) speaks at the U.S. Capitol at a news conference in Washington on June 19, 2018. (Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

Purdue’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

A spokeswoman told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the financial disclosures showed no wrongdoing and, like Loeffler, he employs others to manage his investments.

“Senator Perdue goes above and beyond to comply with current law and meet all Senate ethics requirements, he is not involved in any day-to-day investment decisions and uses an outside financial advisor to manage all assets and publicly report every transaction in a timely manner,” Cherie Gillan said.

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act bars members of Congress from using “non-public information” for making a private profit, including insider trading.

Reactions to the stock sales have been fierce, bringing people together from both parties in disbelief over the senators’ actions.

Both Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Tucker Carlson of Fox News called on Burr to resign. “He had inside information about what could happen to our country—which is now happening—but he didn’t warn the public,” Carlson said on his show on Thursday night.

“What did he do? He dumped his shares in hotel stocks, so he wouldn’t lose money. And then he stayed silent.”