The Justice Department is investigating stock trades made by members of Congress who attended coronavirus briefings before the market plummeted, CNN reports.
The FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission have started looking at the sales and have reached out to Sen. Richard Burr, the North Carolina Republican, about hundreds of thousands in stock sales he made after one of the briefings.
There is no evidence that the sales broke any laws or Senate rules, according to the report, but it “ is routine for the FBI and SEC to review stock trades when there is public question about their propriety,” CNN reported.
Burr under fire:
Burr sold between $628,000 and $1.7 million in stocks in February after he attended a Senators-only briefing earlier that month.
After the report, Burr asked the Senate Ethics Committee to review the transactions given "the assumption many could make in hindsight.”
A lawyer for Burr told CNN that he "welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate."
"The law is clear that any American -- including a Senator -- may participate in the stock market based on public information, as Senator Burr did. When this issue arose, Senator Burr immediately asked the Senate Ethics Committee to conduct a complete review, and he will cooperate with that review as well as any other appropriate inquiry," the attorney said.
Other senators sold stock too:
Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her husband sold $1.275 to $3.1 million of stocks between late January and February 14 while buying a stock that has since skyrocketed in value.
Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein sold stock as well.
None of the three senators have been contacted by the FBI, according to the report.
“Congress passed the Stock Act in 2012, which made it illegal for lawmakers to use inside information for financial benefit,” CNN reported. “Under insider trading laws, prosecutors would need to prove the lawmakers traded based on material non-public information they received in violation of a duty to keep it confidential.”
SEC Chairman Jay Clayton did not confirm the investigation but issued a warning.
"Anyone who is privy to private information about a company or about markets needs to be cautious about how they use that private information. That's fundamental to our securities laws and that applies to government employees, public officials, etc, and the Stock Act codifies that," he said.