A member of the public has filed a lawsuit against Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) for insider trading allegations in the wake of the worldwide coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The lawsuit alleges that Burr engaged in securities fraud when he dumped a significant amount of stocks before the novel coronavirus crisis hit the financial markets. Burr and his wife are being investigated for using “material nonpublic information” to cash-out stock assets from their portfolio.

Alan Jacobson, a shareholder in Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, sued Burr in federal court Monday.

Jacobson alleged that the North Carolina Republican utilized private information on the novel coronavirus to liquidate some of his financial assets. The law restricts the use of such information in securities exchange dealings.

The lawsuit alleges that, “Senator Burr is a Member of the U.S. Senate, where in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee he learned the nonpublic material information on which he based his stock trades.”

Burr sits on two committees that received detailed briefings on the epidemic.

The Republican senator is the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He is also a member of the Senate Health Committee.

Disclosure reports reveal that he and his wife had cashed-out on up to $1.72 million worth of portfolio shares on Feb. 13.

On that date, in mid February, the Senator and his wife made 33 stock trades.

Burr made the trades after the nonpublic briefing with other senators and the Trump administration took place. The meeting on Jan. 24 focused on how the coronavirus would impact the economy.

ProPublica and OpenSecrets estimate that the value of the trades that the Burrs made equal somewhere around $625,000 to $1.72 million.

The lawsuit, brought about by Jacobson, alleges that Burr had received frequent briefings on the spread of COVID-19 since it emerged in Wuhan, China, in 2019. It states that he unlawfully utilized this private information in his decision to sell certain stocks.

On and around February 13, 2020, Senator Burr possessed material nonpublic information regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the United States, and in particular on the U.S economy,” according to the Jacobson v. Burr lawsuit. 

Burr pullled out of the travel industry’s group of assets as he assured the public that the United States could weather the financial ramifications of the novel coronavirus. Included in his stock portfolio was around a $150,000 stake in Wyndham.

The suit alleges that “While members of the public, including Plaintiff, were being told by the United States government, including by Senator Burr, that the United States was prepared to face emerging public health threats like the coronavirus and that COVID-19 would not have a significant impact on the economy, Senator Burr was in possession of material nonpublic information to the contrary.”

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