On May 14, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., stepped down as the chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee in response to an ongoing FBI investigation into Burr’s stock sales before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Burr is currently under investigation for possibly using insider information to make the decision to sell up to $1.72 million in stocks before COVID-19 spread throughout the United States. The FBI served a search warrant for the senator’s cellphone to look for possible evidence of insider trading.
In a May 14 press release, Burr said he was stepping down as the chairperson of this committee until the insider trading investigation is resolved.
“The work the Intelligence Committee and its members do is too important to risk hindering in any way,” Burr said in a statement. “I believe this step is necessary to allow the Committee to continue its essential work free of external distractions.”
James Cox is a professor at Duke Law School who specializes in corporate and security laws.
In Burr's case, Cox said there is likely enough circumstantial evidence to infer insider trading took place.
“In Mr. Burr’s case, what we know is that he had a briefing in his committee. He had learned that there was much greater likelihood of a pandemic than was generally understood in the public domain,” Cox said. “We know that, not only did he sell stock after that, he sold stock very shortly after that. He didn’t wait weeks to get other information.”
Cox said if Burr were to resign before the end of his term, Gov. Roy Cooper could appoint a new senator to take his place until an election could take place under the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“If he resigns, then the governor has the ability to appoint someone to fill the vacancy until there is a general election to fill the seat,” he said.