LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/CBS News) – A nonpartisan group is calling for federal regulators to investigate California Senator Dianne Feinstein and other U.S. lawmakers for possibly violating insider trading laws after receiving classified briefings about the seriousness of the coronavirus threat.
According to CBS News, Feinstein (D-CA) sold as much as $6 million worth of shares in late and mid-February, around the same time the Senate Intelligence Committee was briefed on COVID-19.
Feinstein denied the transactions had anything to do with information about coronavirus.
She later tweeted: “During my Senate career I’ve held all assets in a blind trust of which I have no control. Reports that I sold any assets are incorrect, as are reports that I was at a January 24 briefing on coronavirus, which I was unable to attend.”
During my Senate career I’ve held all assets in a blind trust of which I have no control. Reports that I sold any assets are incorrect, as are reports that I was at a January 24 briefing on coronavirus, which I was unable to attend.
— Senator Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) March 20, 2020
She said that Senate rules also require her to report her husband’s financial transactions. “I have no input into his decisions,” she tweeted. “My husband in January and February sold shares of a cancer therapy company. This company is unrelated to any work on the coronavirus and the sale was unrelated to the situation.”
In addition to Feinstein, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) sold as much as $1.7 million in stocks just before the market dropped in February amid fears about the coronavirus outbreak, according to Senate records cited by CBS News.
The documents show that Burr and his wife sold between roughly $600,000 and $1.7 million in 33 separate transactions in late January and mid-February, just before the market began to fall and as government health officials began to issue stark warnings about the effects of the virus. Several of the stocks were in companies that own hotels.
On Friday, nonpartisan watchdog group Common Cause filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC,) and the Senate Ethics Committee calling for immediate investigations of Feinstein, Burr, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), and James Inhofe (R-OK) for possible violations of the STOCK Act and insider trading laws.
The STOCK Act affirms that members of Congress are not exempt from insider trading laws and states that Senators “may not use nonpublic information derived from such person’s position as a Member of Congress … or gained from the performance of such person’s official responsibilities as a means for making a private profit.”
“The American people expect and deserve leaders who look after the interests of the people before their own personal interests,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “These potential violations of insider trading laws and the STOCK Act by these Senators, outlined in widespread media reports, show what appears to be contempt for the law and further a contempt for the American people these Senators have sworn to serve. Situations like these are exactly why Common Cause fought to help pass the STOCK Act, to prevent government officials abusing their power for their personal profit.”