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DOJ still investigating coronavirus stock sales by Sen. Burr, but drops probes of Loeffler, Inhofe, Feinstein

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) leaves the U.S. Capitol after voting in Washington, U.S., May 14, 2020.

Erin Scott | Reuters

Federal prosecutors are still investigating stock sales by Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina in advance of a coronavirus-fuelled share price plunge, but are dropping investigations of such sales connected to three other senators: Kelly Loeffler, Jim Inhofe and Dianne Feinstein, according to a new report Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal reported that prosecutors from the Department of Justice on Tuesday are informing lawyers for Loeffler, R-Georgia, Inhofe, R-Okla., and Feinstein, D-Calif., that they are no longer probing stock sales related to them.

The FBI earlier this month seized Burr’s cell phone at his home in Washington, D.C., as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

The next day, the Republican Burr  stepped aside as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) participates during the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing to examine COVID-19 and Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School on May 12, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Win McNamee | POOL | Getty Images

Burr and the other three senators have denied any wrongdoing in the selling off of shares from either their own or spouse’s accounts worth cumulatively millions of dollars in the weeks before stock prices collapsed as the Covid-19 pandemic began spreading rapidly in the United States.

Members of Congress are prohibited by law from using nonpublic information obtained through their official positions in order to personally profit in the stock market.

The Department of Justice, and spokesmen for Burr and Feinstein declined to comment when asked by CNBC about the Wall Street Journal’s report.

Spokesmen for Loeffler and  Inhofe did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Burr on Feb. 13 had sold stock shares valued at between $630,000 and $1.7 million in 33 separate trades.

ProPublica has reported that on Feb. 13, the same day Burr that sold his stock, his brother-in-law Gerald Fauth also sold tens of thousands of dollars worth of shares.

Fauth is a member of the National Mediation Board, a federal agency that facilitates labor relations for the transportation industry. 

Burr’s attorney Alice Fisher declined to comment on Tuesday.

But Fisher previously has said that Burr “participated in the stock market based on public information,” and that “he did not coordinate his decision to trade on Feb. 13 with Mr. Fauth.”

Loeffler’s husband Jeffrey Sprecher is CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, the company that operates the New York Stock Exchange, among other financial marketplaces.

 Loeffler and Sprecher, beginning on Jan. 24,  sold stock shares over the next three weeks that were valued at between $1.3 million and $3.1 million, according to disclosure reports filed by Loeffler.

The couple’s sell-off began on the same day that Loeffler attended a senators-only briefing on the coronavirus.

The couple has said that the sales were handled without any input from them at the direction of third-party third-party financial advisors.

Loeffler in mid-May revealed that she gave documents and information related to the sales to the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee.

Loeffler’s office, in a statement on May 14, said that the documents and information she had turned over established “that she and her husband acted entirely appropriately and observed both the letter and the spirit of the law.”

A spokesman for Intercontinental Exchange, known as ICE, declined to comment Tuesday about the Journal’s report.

Feinstein previously said that she had answered questions from the FBI about her husband’s stock sales and had turned over documents to the FBI.

Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, sold shares of the biotech company Allogene Therapeutics on Jan. 31 that were valued at between $500,000 and $1 million.

Inhofe sold stock shares in late January valued at between $180,000 and $400,000, according to public records.

Inhofe, like Loeffler, has said that he plays no role in the management of his investment portfolio. 

– Additional reporting by Ryan Ruggiero

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