OH YES HE DID: Senate Intel Chair Unloaded Stocks in Mid-February Before Coronavirus Rocked Markets

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr unloaded stocks in major companies, including hotel chains, in February before the coronavirus pandemic.

UNITED STATES – FEBRUARY 04: Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., walks through Statuary Hall to the House chamber before the start of President Donald Trumps State of the Union address on Tuesday, February 4, 2020. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

 reports: As the coronavirus outbreak began to spread across the U.S. in mid-February, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) unloaded his holdings in dozens of stocks that would lose much of their market value over the coming weeks.

Burr and his wife Brooke sold between $628,000 and $1.7 million in publicly traded stocks on Feb. 13 and didn’t buy any new positions, according to a recent financial disclosure filed with the Senate.

Around the time that Burr sold his shares of major corporations, including several hard hit hotel companies, he publicly expressed confidence about the U.S. government’s ability to fight the virus. However in late February, Burr privately warned that the virus is “much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history,” according to a recording obtained by NPR.

Between the Burrs’ two accounts, they sold up to $150,000 worth of stock in Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, which lost almost two-thirds of its market value since Feb. 13. They sold up to $150,000 in Extended Stay America, another hotel company that lost half its value over the last month. Burr also sold up to $65,000 of stock in Park Hotels & Resorts, which saw its stock price drop from nearly $24 to under $5. The hotel industry is asking President Donald Trump for a bailout as Americans increasingly avoid travel.

Congressional financial disclosures display investment amounts in wide ranges. In total, the Burrs sold seven positions worth between $50,001 and $100,000, including shares of major companies AbbVie, Centurylink and Constellation Brands.

“Senator Burr 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,” a Burr spokesperson told OpenSecrets. “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. He supported Congress’ immediate efforts to provide $7.8 billion for response efforts and this week’s bipartisan bill to provide relief for American business and small families.”

In his most recent annual financial disclosure filed in 2019, Burr reported holding $1.3 million in equities. Anywhere between one-fourth and three-fourths of that was liquidated on a single day last month.

It’s unclear how much control Burr has over his portfolio. His assets are managed by private wealth management firm Stephens Inc. Burr’s net worth in 2018 was between $3.4 million and $11 million, according to OpenSecrets’ review of his disclosure.

About one week after the Burrs unloaded their shares, the stock market began to plunge on the news of coronavirus-related demand shortages. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has lost nearly one-third of its value since mid-February, wiping out the gains made during Trump’s presidency.

Officials have confirmed over 10,000 cases of COVID-19 and 150 deaths in the U.S. But officials don’t believe they can accurately account for the number of Americans infected with the virus, as the U.S. lags behind other nations in the number of tests it administers. Earlier this month, Burr grilled a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official about why the agency was slow to roll out testing … (read more)

Source: opensecrets.org



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