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Loeffler, Perdue, Burr Dumped Stocks After Private Coronavirus Briefing While Downplaying Risks to American Public

New reporting reveals that three Republican senators Richard Burr, Kelly Loeffler, and David Perdue offloaded millions in stock holdings in the days and weeks following a private, all-senators briefing and then proceeded to downplay the risks of the virus to the American people. The shares these senators sold have lost considerable value as the market has tanked 30 percent, and included holdings in “companies that are among the most vulnerable to an economic slowdown” such as hotels and casinos

“While American workers and small businesses across the country are suffering, these wealthy Republican senators padded their stock portfolios using exclusive information about the coming coronavirus pandemic while outwardly dismissing the very real risks to our economy and public health,” said DSCC spokesperson Helen Kalla. “Senators Burr, Loeffler, and Perdue owe their constituents an immediate explanation.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Perdue, Loeffler among senators whose stock trading during coronavirus raises questions

By Tia Mitchell

March 20, 2020

Key Points:

  • Georgia’s two U.S. senators bought and sold stocks during the same time they were receiving briefings on the coronavirus outbreak, leading to questions about whether they used inside information to guide their financial dealings.
  • Perdue in nearly 100 transactions bought and sold in equal amounts, although exact figures cannot be determined because senators are only required to report transactions within ranges. Loeffler unloaded stocks at a much more rapid pace than she made purchases, taking money out of the market.
  • Both senators have praised President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic even as Democrats accused the White House of being slow to act and downplaying, at least initially, the severity of its spread.
  • While the Daily Beast focused on Loeffler’s disclosures, Perdue made nearly 100 sales or purchases during the same period.
  • He invested up to $245,000 in Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company, during multiple transactions around the same time that members of Congress began sounding the alarm that more should be done to address the spread of the virus.
  • Perdue also sold up to $165,000 in stocks for Caesar Entertainment, the casino and hotel company whose facilities have shuttered to help combat the spread of the virus.

ProPublica: Senator Dumped Up to $1.7 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public About Coronavirus Preparedness

By Robert Faturechi and Derek Willis

March 19, 2020

Key Points:

  • Soon after he offered public assurances that the government was ready to battle the coronavirus, the powerful chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, sold off a significant percentage of his stocks, unloading between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 33 separate transactions.
  • As the head of the intelligence committee, Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has access to the government’s most highly classified information about threats to America’s security. His committee was receiving daily coronavirus briefings around this time, according to a Reuters story.
  • A week after Burr’s sales, the stock market began a sharp decline and has lost about 30% since.
  • On Thursday, Burr came under fire after NPR obtained a secret recording from Feb. 27, in which the lawmaker gave a VIP group at an exclusive social club a much more dire preview of the economic impact of the coronavirus than what he had told the public.
  • According to the NPR report, Burr told attendees of the luncheon held at the Capitol Hill Club: “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history … It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”
  • He warned that companies might have to curtail their employees’ travel, that schools could close and that the military might be mobilized to compensate for overwhelmed hospitals.
  • The luncheon was organized by the Tar Heel Circle, a club for businesses and organizations in North Carolina that are charged up to $10,000 for membership and are promised “interaction with top leaders and staff from Congress, the administration, and the private sector.”
  • Burr’s public comments had been considerably less dire. In a Feb. 7 op-ed that he co-authored with another senator, he assured the public that “the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus.” He wrote, “No matter the outbreak or threat, Congress and the federal government have been vigilant in identifying gaps in its readiness efforts and improving its response capabilities.”
  • Stock transactions of lawmakers are reported in ranges. Burr’s Feb. 13 selling spree was his largest stock selling day of at least the past 14 months, according to a ProPublica review of Senate records. Unlike his typical disclosure reports, which are a mix of sales and purchases, all of the transactions were sales.
  • His biggest sales included companies that are among the most vulnerable to an economic slowdown. He dumped up to $150,000 worth of shares of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, a chain based in the United States that has lost two-thirds of its value. And he sold up to $100,000 of shares of Extended Stay America, an economy hospitality chain. Shares of that company are now worth less than half of what they did at the time Burr sold.

The Daily Beast: Sen. Kelly Loeffler Dumped Millions in Stock After Coronavirus Briefing

By Lachlan Markey, William Bredderman, and Sam Brodey

March 19, 2020

Key Points:

  • The Senate’s newest member sold off seven figures’ worth of stock holdings in the days and weeks after a private, all-senators meeting on the novel coronavirus that subsequently hammered U.S. equities.
  • Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) 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. 
  • That first transaction was a sale of stock in the company Resideo Technologies valued at between $50,001 and $100,000. The company’s stock price has fallen by more than half since then, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average overall has shed approximately 10,000 points, dropping about a third of its value.
  • It was the first of 29 stock transactions that Loeffler and her husband made through mid-February, all but two of which were sales. One of Loeffler’s two purchases was stock 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.
  • Loeffler’s office did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast on the transactions and whether they were prompted or informed by information shared at that late January briefing. It’s illegal for members of Congress to trade on non-public information gleaned through their official duties. 
  • In the weeks after her spate of stock trades, Loeffler sought to downplay the public-health and financial threats posed by the coronavirus. 
  • “Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on #Coronavirus readiness,” she tweeted on Feb. 28. “Here’s the truth: @realDonaldTrump & his administration are doing a great job working to keep Americans healthy & safe.”
  • The 15 stocks that Loeffler reported selling have lost more than a third of their value, on average, since she reported offloading them. She initially reported many of the transactions as sales of stock owned by her husband. Last week she amended the filing to note that most of them were jointly owned.

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