Sen. Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina and the No. 1 guy in the Senate for hearing sensitive, classified information about the health and safety of the nation, seemingly can't keep a secret. At least not one that has the potential to make him and his buddies a lot richer, which he capitalized on personally, cashing out as much as $1.5 million in stock just before the COVID-19 market crash. He also warned his wealthy friends in the exclusive Tar Heel Circle about the classified intelligence he'd received on the dire pandemic that was coming.
Now Propublica, the outlet that discovered Burr's stock dump, has found another beneficiary of Burr's classified knowledge. On the same day that Burr dumped his stocks, beating the market crash, so did his brother-in-law. Gerald Fauth, Burr's relative and also a Trump appointee on the National Mediation Board, sold between $97,000 and $280,000 in shares the same day Burr unloaded his. It could be purely coincidental, of course, but how likely is that? This was on Feb. 13, two weeks before Burr talked to the Tar Heel Circle, and the day before the market crash. Meanwhile, Burr was telling the public that everything was going to be fine.
On Feb. 13, Fauth sold his shares in six companies, several of which took very big hits in the downturn, saving him as much as $118,000 in losses. Among seemingly random share dumps, he sold his shares "in several oil companies, which have been hit particularly hard, including between $15,001 and $50,000 of Chevron; between $1,001 and $15,000 of BP and between $15,001 and $50,000 of Royal Dutch Shell." The other shares sold were between $15,001 and $50,000 in the tobacco company Altria; as much as $100,000 shares in Mondelez International, owner of Kraft Foods and maker of Triscuits and Oreos (which was a bad bet on his part—they've done well with everyone home and snacking); and up to $15,000 in Williams-Sonoma stock.
This is the first time there's been an intersection of Burr and Fauth's finances. It seems Burr likes to keep the finances in the family. Mary Fauth, Gerald's spouse, is the treasurer of Burr's leadership PAC, Next Century fund. She's been paid over $120,000 in that position since 2002. It's not a lot of money, but it's also probably not a lot of work. The PAC also rents space from 116 S. Royal St. Partners—Fauth is one of those partners—and has paid over $100,000 to the company in rent and utilities. Propublica reports that "a person who picked up Fauth's phone on Wednesday hung up when asked if Fauth and Burr had discussed the sales in advance."
Burr's lawyer, which he needs because he's now under federal investigation for his stock dump, tells ProPublica: "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." Sure he did. That's believable.