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US senators 'dumped stock before virus caused meltdown'

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Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman  Senator Richard Burr

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Senator Richard Burr

AFP via Getty Images

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Senator Richard Burr

Two Republican senators faced calls to resign yesterday over media reports that they sold substantial amounts of stock ahead of the global coronavirus-induced market meltdown after receiving private briefings on the outbreak.

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr sold between $628,000 and $1.7m (€1.6m) worth of stock on February 13, in 33 separate transactions, after offering public assurances the government was ready to battle the coronavirus, according to non-profit investigative journalism group ProPublica.

Mr Burr's committee has been receiving daily updates on the outbreak.

Two weeks after the stock sale, the North Carolina Republican told a luncheon on Capitol Hill the virus was more aggressive in its transmission "than anything we have seen in recent history", according to a recording obtained by National Public Radio.

The comments predated Wall Street's massive sell-off.

Burr's office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler sold $1.28m to $3.1m (€2.9m) in stocks from January 24 through mid-February in 29 transactions, two of which were purchases, according to 'The Daily Beast'. The report said the sales began on the day her health committee hosted a private coronavirus briefing for senators.

Ms Loeffler wrote on Twitter that she was informed of the transactions three weeks after they occurred.

"This is a ridiculous and baseless attack. I do not make investment decisions for my portfolio," she said.

But by early Friday, critics on both ends of the political spectrum were calling on both lawmakers to consider resigning.

Irish Independent