DOJ to Probe Stock Transactions Prior to Coronavirus Market Tumble

The Justice Department is allegedly in the process of investigating a lawmaker who decided to sell stock several days before the market tumbled due to the coronavirus outbreak, The Hill reported.

CNN reported Sunday that the inquiry, which was launched in cooperation with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), is still in its early stages, according to two people familiar with the matter. However, at least one lawmaker, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), has been contacted by investigators, according to CNN.

Burr is one of four senators who sold thousands of dollars’ worth of stock in the days before the stock market began a historical downturn amid nationwide travel and work restrictions implemented to stop the spread of coronavirus, as well as reports of jobless claims jumping to historic levels due to the crisis.

A spokeswoman for the North Carolina senator insisted that Burr used no nonpublic information when making his financial decisions, as is required by the STOCK Act, and pointed to the Senate ethics inquiry Burr had requested upon news of the trades becoming public in a comment to CNN.

“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,” said Alice Fisher, Burr’s lawyer.

Burr, she added, “welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate.”

The Justice Department, SEC and FBI declined to comment to CNN when contacted about the inquiry.

Several other senators whose own stock trades fell into similar public scrutiny in recent days have all denied using nonpublic information in their financial decisions with the exception of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who stated that her finances remain in a blind trust controlled by her husband over which she has no control or input.

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