The Justice Department is looking into stock sales and purchases made by several senators before the recent market drop and after they received sensitive briefings about the potential impact of the coronavirus, according to a CNN report.
The DOJ is working with the Securities and Exchange Commission on the investigation, and the FBI has contacted at least one lawmaker, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., about the trades, one of CNN’s two sources said.
The Wall Street Journal also reported the investigation Monday afternoon, citing “a person familiar with the matter.”
Investors and others are concerned that some politicians appear to have profited from sensitive information obtained in private briefings — aka insider trading. (Disclosure documents for Burr and others can be viewed online by the public.)
Burr, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he sold $628,000 and $1.7 million in stocks in mid-February based on public news and asked the Senate Ethics Committee last month to look over the trades given “the assumption many could make in hindsight.”
The sales may not have broken any laws or Senate rules (found in the Stock Act of 2012), and it is common for the FBI and SEC to review stock trades when they are called into question, CNN’s report explained.
Burr’s lawyer, Alice Fisher, told the network Sunday in a statement that he “welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate.”
Burr’s committee was not briefed on the virus the week he sold stock, one source told CNN, though the senator has been briefed periodically on the coronavirus.