The Department of Justice has begun investigating controversial stock transactions made by a small group of lawmakers before the American economy tumbled over coronavirus fears.
According to CNN, the investigation is still in its beginning stages and is being conducted in conjunction with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The FBI has so far reached out to only one lawmaker, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), whose transactions stirred the most controversy.
Burr dumped between $628,000 and $1.72 million worth of stock on Feb. 13, ProPublica revealed this month.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing on Burr's behalf. However, Burr made the transactions after attending a closed-door intelligence briefing about COVID-19 in late January. He later reassured the public they should not fear the virus, but was privately warning people in late February, two weeks after he dumped his stock portfolio, about a possible economic downturn.
Burr's lawyer, Alice Fisher, denied that Burr used insider information to make his financial decisions.
"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," Fisher told CNN.
Burr is not the only senator who came under fire for questionable stock transactions.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) sold more than two dozen stocks valued between $1.275 million and $3.1 million from the end of January through mid-February. She also purchased stock in a software company that has increased in value by approximately 15%, according to CNN.
Loeffler said her team of financial advisers made the transactions, and said she only learned about the transactions after they were made.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) also reported major stock transactions ahead of the economic downturn, but both lawmakers deny playing a role in the financial decisions.
The FBI has not contacted Loeffler, Feinstein, or Inhofe, according to CNN.