Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is being sued after selling shares in a hotel company while possessing confidential information about the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Alan Jacobson, a shareholder in Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, sued Burr in federal court on Monday, alleging that the senator used private information to motivate a mass liquidation of his assets. It is illegal for senators to use nonpublic information in conducting securities exchanges.
Burr came under fire after OpenSecrets and ProPublica reported last week that he had sold between $628,000 and $1.72 million worth of his stock holdings in mid-February — while he was still publicly reassuring the country that the United States was amply prepared for the growing coronavirus outbreak. Among the shares he sold were an up to $150,000 stake in Wyndham, whose stock suffered a market-value cut of more than two-thirds since mid-February.
Burr was also in the hot seat after NPR reported that he had warned wealthy members of an exclusive social club about the major disruptions to the nation’s economic and daily life that would come from the growing outbreak. As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr is privy to much of the nation’s classified information on threats to national security.
The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the travel industry, from cruises to airlines to hotels. Wyndham was no exception — the company’s stock sold at $59.96 on Feb. 19 but has dropped precipitously, to $25.03 on Monday.