Sen. Burr gained $164K, avoided $87K in losses from 'well-timed stock sales' at start of Covid-19 pandemic

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina profited off stock sales in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to an FBI affidavit.

Posted Updated

Bryan Anderson
, WRAL state government reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — U.S. Sen. Richard Burr profited more than $164,000 in what an FBI agent described as “well-timed stock sales” during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In transactions placed on Jan. 31, 2020 and Feb. 13, 2020, the North Carolina Republican sold nearly all of his equities in his retirement account, according to newly unsealed court documents. After his Feb. 13 sales, Burr’s portfolio went from approximately 83% in equities to approximately 3%, according to the documents, which show that the sales helped the senator avoid about $87,000 in losses. Meanwhile, about 61% of the equity positions in the retirement account of Burr’s wife were sold on Feb. 13, the documents indicate.

The FBI affidavit’s release came in response to an effort by the Los Angeles Times to unseal records relating to a now-closed investigation into the senator over alleged insider trading. The news organization first reported on the Department of Justice investigation into the sales of stock held by Burr, his wife and other relatives.

Burr’s office didn’t respond to a WRAL News request for comment on Tuesday. He wasn't charged in the DOJ investigation.

According to the documents, Burr on Feb. 12, 2020, also put nearly $1.2 million into the Federated U.S. Treasury Cash Reserves Fund through a joint account with his wife—a move seen as a hedge against a potential economic downturn as the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at its highest ever point at the time, according to a redacted FBI affidavit released late Monday.

Burr’s brother-in-law also sold stock after a call with the senator on Feb. 13, the affidavit says.

“I believe that probable cause exists that Senator Burr used material, non-public information regarding the impact that COVID-19 would have on the economy, and that he gained that information by virtue of his position as a Member of Congress,” wrote FBI Special Agent Brandon Merriman.

The document provided few details on what non-public information Burr may have had about the pandemic prior to his sales. Burr had served as the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time of the stock trades but stepped down after the FBI seized his cellphone in May 2020 amid the ongoing investigations.

In January 2021, Burr said the Department of Justice had ended its investigation.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also was investigating Burr’s stock trades last year. The SEC didn’t immediately respond to a request for an update on the status of its review.

The newly unsealed documents suggested that Burr was uncooperative during the initial stages of the investigation. FBI special agents called Burr’s cellphone on March 28, 2020, to request an interview with him at his North Carolina home, which Burr declined, the documents say. The affidavit also shows the extent to which Burr profited from his stock decisions.

“Beginning on February 20, 2020—six days after Senator Burr’s sale of the majority of his equity—the stock market endured a dramatic and substantial downturn,” Merriman, the FBI special agent, wrote. “In total, Senator Burr avoided more than an estimated $87,000 in loss as a result of his well-timed stock sales, and profited more than $164,000.”


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