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FBI Probes Stock Sales, Virus Crash    03/31 06:35

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- 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 dumped as much as $1.7 million in stocks in the days before the 
coronavirus wreaked havoc on the economy.

   Burr has denied wrongdoing but has also requested an ethics review of the 
stock sales.

   The Justice Department's action, first reported by CNN, 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, whose stock sales were first reported by ProPublica and The Center for 
Responsive Politics, is one of several senators whose financial dealings have 
generated scrutiny in recent weeks.

   Senate records show that Burr and his wife sold between roughly $600,000 and 
$1.7 million in more than 30 transactions in late January and mid-February, 
just before the market began to nosedive and government health officials began 
to sound alarms about the virus. Several of the stocks were in companies that 
own hotels.

   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.

   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.


(KR)

 
 
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