So many insane coincidences happening right now! First Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina receives a secret briefing on the coming coronavirus and dumps a shitload of stock on February 13 before the market tanks. And then his brother-in-law also dumps a huge chunk of his own portfolio on the very same day. What are the odds!

Beginning in January, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Senator Burr, began receiving daily updates on the danger of the novel coronavirus. On February 7, he penned an op-ed for Fox News with Senator Lamar Alexander touting the CDC's spiffy new coronavirus tests (AHEM) and promising that "we are not only ready to face the coronavirus today but new public health threats in the future." But just a week later, as reported by ProPublica, he recorded 33 stock transactions dumping upwards of $628,000 in shares, a significant chunk of his holdings, and sparing himself a huge hit to his retirement savings.

"I closely followed CNBC's daily health and science reporting out of its Asia bureau at the time," Burr said in a statement, insisting that he'd "relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks."

And apparently, his brother-in-law Gerald Fauth is also an avid watcher of CNBC, since he sold off more than $97,000 of stock on the same day. Lucky break, huh?


Fauth sits on the three-member National Mediation Board, an agency that "helps to maintain the flow of interstate commerce in the airline and railway industries through representation, mediation and arbitration services." Fauth, a former lobbyist for transportation companies, was appointed in 2017 as a part of President Trump's effort to drain the swamp by filling it with industry insiders who have ties to key, swing-state politicians.

ProPublica flagged Fauth's mandatory financial disclosure, which shows that he dumped three oil stocks, BP, Chevron, and Royal Dutch Shell, before Americans agreed that we're never flying again and vacation is canceled and oil became pay-to-take. Plus there's that little matter of Vladimir Putin blowing up OPEC and tanking the oil markets, which might or might not have been part of the Senate Intel briefing. Who can say!

Fauth also ditched shares of snack maker Mondelez, which is more or less where it was six months ago, and tobacco company Altria, which is down by a lot. To be entirely fair to Mr. Fauth, Altria is probably down because of the ban on flavored vapes, which went into effect the first week of February. (Remember how Azar was trying to get Trump's attention about covid, and all Trump wanted to talk about was how the vapers were going to vote against him? This year is so weird.)

ProPublica notes that Burr has a habit of doing a solid for his sister and husband through his Next Century Fund leadership PAC, which rented space from Mr. Fauth and employed Mrs. Fauth as treasurer. Fauth's office hung up on reporters when they called to ask about the sale, but they were able to get Burr's counsel on the record.

"Sen. Burr participated in the stock market based on public information and he did not coordinate his decision to trade on Feb. 13 with Mr. Fauth," Burr's attorney Alice Fisher told ProPublica, in an extremely carefully worded statement which doesn't actually deny that the senator shared non-public information with his brother-in-law. The word "coordinate" is doing a lot of work here.

Burr is currently under DOJ investigation for his trades, and this newest revelation is probably not going to help his case. But there's probably an innocent explanation for all this. No doubt the pair will announce that they simply sold on February 13 to raise cash for some worthwhile joint venture. Perhaps an orphanage in Lahore or desperately needed wells for a tiny village in Sudan. Any second now we'll find out that these guys dumped their stock for pure and altruistic motives, not simply to avoid the economic pain every other American is facing as we watch our retirement savings go up in smoke. Any second.

[ProPublica]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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