In the wake of reports last month that four US senators sold stocks shortly after a classified briefing on January 24 about the risk posed by the novel coronavirus, Timothy Carambat, a mechanical and software engineer, created a website to make stock sales by every senator more visible.
In an email to The Register, Carambat, who runs a design firm based in Covington, Louisiana, called Industrial Object, explained he was motivated to create Senate Stock Watcher after news broke that Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) had dumped stocks before most people in America understood the implications of the outbreak. It is illegal for senators to buy and sell shares using non-public information.
Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been sued for alleged securities fraud, a charge he has denied. It is said he unloaded up to $1.7m in stocks in mid-February, particularly in hotel groups that would be later hit hard by the virus pandemic, all while receiving daily confidential briefings about the impact of the bio-nasty – and reassuring the public everything would be fine.
“As public servants, there are some senators making alarmingly large money movements at what would seem to be very fortunate timing in the market,” Carambat said.
“I understand some senators were previously very accomplished businesspeople, but in my opinion, the level of access they have to information currently is highly privileged and it would only make sense to keep their own financial best interests at heart.”
Details about the stock sales in news reports prompted Carambat to look into the source of the data, which turned out to be the US Senate Financial Disclosures website.