WASHINGTON, D.C. — The FBI has reached out to Sen. Richard Burr about his sale of stocks before the coronavirus caused markets to plummet, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.
The outreach suggests federal law enforcement officials may be looking to determine whether the North Carolina Republican exploited advance information when he sold stocks in the weeks before the coronavirus caused markets and the economy to drop.
Burr has denied wrongdoing and requested an ethics review of the stock sales.
There is no indication that Burr, whose six-year term ends in 2023 and who does not plan to run for reelection, was acting on inside information. The intelligence panel he leads did not have any briefings on the pandemic the week when most of the stocks were sold, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential committee activity.
The Justice Department’s action was confirmed by a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss it and spoke on condition of anonymity. The Justice Department declined to comment.
In a statement, Alice Fisher, an attorney for Burr, said, “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. Senator Burr welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate,” the statement said.
Burr has acknowledged selling the stocks because of the coronavirus but said he relied “solely on public news reports,” specifically CNBC’s daily health and science reporting out of Asia, to make the financial decisions.