Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 20, 2020

Congress Grifters Profit From Crisis

Grifters know well that every crisis is also a chance to make money. The U.S. Congress is, like most parliaments, full of grifters. Its is therefore not astonishing to learn that some Congress members used the early information about the novel Coronavirus pandemic they received for favorable stock transaction:

Soon after he offered public assurances that the government was ready to battle the coronavirus, the powerful chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, sold off a significant percentage of his stocks, unloading between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 33 separate transactions.

As the head of the intelligence committee, Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has access to the government’s most highly classified information about threats to America’s security. His committee was receiving daily coronavirus briefings around this time, according to a Reuters story.

A week after Burr’s sales, the stock market began a sharp decline and has lost about 30% since.

Burr did not just take care of his own portfolio. He also warned his special friends of the then upcoming crash:

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned a small group of well-connected constituents three weeks ago to prepare for dire economic and societal effects of the coronavirus, according to a secret recording obtained by NPR.

The remarks from U.S. Sen. Richard Burr were more stark than any he had delivered in more public forums.
"There's one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history," he said, according to a secret recording of the remarks obtained by NPR. "It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic."
In attendance, according to a copy of the RSVP list obtained by NPR, were dozens of invited guests representing companies and organizations from North Carolina. And according to federal records, those companies or their political committees donated more than $100,000 to Burr's election campaign in 2015 and 2016.

Burr has of course the right to sell his stock holdings. But doing such insider trading while telling the public that all is fine borders on criminal:

The stocks were sold in mid-February, days after Mr. Burr, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote an opinion article for Fox News suggesting that the United States was “better prepared than ever before” to confront the virus.
Three other senators also sold major holdings around the time Mr. Burr did, according to the disclosure records: Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, who is also a member of the Intelligence Committee; James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma; and Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia.

The grifters are bi-partisan and its likely that there are more of them. Many more will also have given tip-offs to their rich friends.

There will be more of this. The huge amounts of money that is currently being released by Congress to dampen the economic effects of the crisis will attract a lot of schemers, like Boeing chief David Calhoun, who neither deserve nor need it:

Before the Trump Administration hands $60bn over to Boeing for its own purposes and to serve as a conduit to aid the supply chain, there are just one or two issues to address.
When Calhoun was named CEO, he was awarded a seven figure salary and a $7m bonus if certain goals were achieved. Calhoun later said he isn’t sure he would have taken the job as CEO without a salary.
Calhoun is part of the problem: he’s been on the Board since 2009. Despite his incredible assertion that he was only in the front row watching a movie, he was an insider. He was the lead director. He was on the Compensation Committee. Suck it up and work for $1 and nothing, at this time, on the come. You owe it to the company, to the employees, to the shareholders, to the supply chain and to the USA to fix the problems you helped create.

Any larger company that now needs a government funded capital injection or a large government loan should be nationalized until it has paid back every cent of it.

But as many of these companies bribe the relevant Congress members that is unfortunately not likely to happen.

Previous Moon of Alabama posts on the issue:

Posted by b on March 20, 2020 at 15:32 UTC | Permalink

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Thanks to both; I did paste Gruff comment in a good ideas box as I was impressed with the formulation too!

Posted by: Mina | Mar 21 2020 21:51 utc | 101

@ William Gruff # 98 who wrote
Instead one must work on building a society that isn't based upon an economic system that makes everything a commodity.
I agree

Let me unpack that economic system that makes everything a commodity concept for you.

Everything is a commodity in the West because of private property and finance. What is left of the global commons in the West?
If society builds an economic system with only public finance and lease arrangements on property, that society, I posit will not treat everything as a commodity.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Mar 22 2020 4:28 utc | 102

Not sure if this issue was raised before on MoA but Spring is coming and that means planting on the farm (not only in the US).

If the Farmers in the US do not have the farm labor to help them plant this year's crops the commodities market gyrations will be crazy as well as increased bankruptcies on the farms. Farm Labor comes largely from Mexico and the boarder is CLOSED.

"We Have No Food for You" - Insiders on Food Supply Shortages

Posted by: Tom_LX | Mar 22 2020 15:31 utc | 103

Excellent commentary on the financial side of this from Matt Levine, unfortunately the illegality of Burr's actions is not so clear:

Posted by: Luke Herbert-Hansen | Mar 22 2020 21:21 utc | 104

@104. And, in an interview with Ed Henry on FOX news, Senator Loeffler strongly denies using privileged info to trade stocks. It was all done by her financial move along folks.....

Posted by: dh | Mar 22 2020 23:02 utc | 105

Posted by: Tom_LX | Mar 22 2020 15:31 utc | 103
"We Have No Food for You" - Insiders on Food Supply Shortages

It is only a "shortage" if we think that the current food distribution system is the only & best way to meet human needs.

This moment will impel more people to move towards self-sufficiency, food forests, small land holdings, withdrawing support for Big Agriculture, buying local, eating in season, slow food movements, etc.... all those things derided for so long as crackpot ideas practised by nutters living on the fringes of "normal" Western society.

But then, change happens at the edges, doesn't it?

As for me, I vote with my wallet for Change I Can Believe In, and NOT the nebulous kind that Great Pretender Obamouth spouted.

Posted by: kiwiklown | Mar 23 2020 4:01 utc | 106

William Gruff @ 98 -- "Everything is a commodity in capitalism.... The solution isn't to fix the political system.... Instead one must work on building a society that isn't based upon an economic system that makes everything a commodity."
Great diagnosis, but what society / system should we build? The answers to the question will be vital for after the current system has either collapsed, or gotten rid of. Will the new system be morals-based? ethics-based? religion-based? based on the US Constitution? a theocracy such as the Iranian system? based on the Chinese meritocracy of using leaders proven to have improved the lot of the people they were entrusted with (see Jeff Brown & Godfree Brown)? Few want to be American per se, but just to have a better life, to be free to pursue their own goals in life. Is that change we cannot believe in?

Posted by: snake | Mar 21 2020 21:05 utc | 100 -- "Its time these government be forced to respond to the needs of hose it governs and to govern only in response to the will of the governed."
I like that. You sound like prescribing the Chinese CCP's meritocracy as described by Jeff Brown / Godfree Brown. However, swamp creatures cannot be turned into moral, upright servants of the people's needs / will, no matter how much force we use. We will need the force of a guillotine, after which they will be useless anyways. Same as presently.

Posted by: kiwiklown | Mar 23 2020 4:34 utc | 107

kiwiklown @ 107
errata: Godfree Roberts, not Godfree Brown. Sorry.

Posted by: kiwiklown | Mar 23 2020 10:11 utc | 108

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