GOP senator suddenly changes his tune on individual stock sales


Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue now admits only some of his holdings are managed by an outside adviser.

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), under fire for stock trades made in his portfolio after lawmakers were given a closed-door briefing in January on the coming pandemic, shifted his story on the trades Friday. After previously indicating all his individual stock holdings were managed independently by an outside adviser, he admitted that that is only true of some of his investments.

Perdue announced Friday that he has voluntarily instructed his financial advisers to stop buying and selling individual stocks.

"Since 2005, we have retained outside, independent financial advisors like Goldman Sachs who themselves, or through outside fund managers they identify, handle the majority of our stock investments," Perdue said in a statement. "Goldman Sachs or these independent fund managers bought and sold individual stocks without consulting with us. In addition, we continue to own three specific stocks I earned as compensation for my service as a board member of those companies before I joined the U.S. Senate in traditional brokerage accounts."

Perdue's statement that advisers "handle the majority of our stock investments" would appear to contradict what his office said in April: "Since coming to the U.S. Senate in 2015, Sen. Perdue has always had an outside adviser managing his personal finances, and he is not involved in day-to-day decisions."

The difference between whether all or just "the majority" of Perdue's stock decisions were made independently by his advisers is particularly relevant given his controversial stock trades in recent months.

In January, senators were given private briefings by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top epidemiologist, and other Trump administration officials about the looming coronavirus threat.

After those briefings, Perdue invested heavily in Pfizer (a pharmaceutical giant active in vaccine research) and DuPont de Nemours (a company that makes personal protective equipment).

Perdue also sold stock in Caesars Entertainment, weeks before the company temporarily shut down its North American casinos.

In March, Perdue disclosed the transactions in his mandatory periodic financial disclosures.

A spokesperson told a local news outlet on Monday that Perdue did not personally attend the January briefing and denied that he acted on any "nonpublic" information.

Perdue's office did not respond to multiple inquiries about the contradictory explanations and whether Perdue was aware of the substance of the private briefings before making the trades.

Several other senators have also come under scrutiny after similar disclosures of post-briefing stock trades. The Wall Street Journal reported in March that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and his wife "sold shares of companies worth as much as $1.7 million" and that the shares in those companies lost at least $250,000 in value in the weeks following the sales.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and her husband sold up to $3.1 million worth of stocks, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, while purchasing stock in two companies "whose software technology is now in demand as Americans are forced to work from home to stem the rise of the coronavirus."

Both have denied any wrongdoing.

Common Cause, a nonpartisan government watchdog, filed ethics and legal complaints and requested investigations into possible violations of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act by Burr, Loeffler, and some of their colleagues.

That 2012 law prohibits members of Congress and their staffs from using nonpublic information for their personal benefit.

While Perdue was not named in the initial complaint, Common Cause's vice president for policy and litigation, Paul Seamus Ryan, said in an email at the time that his trades "raise similar questions of possible insider trading."

On March 30, CNN reported that the Department of Justice had launched a probe into some of the lawmakers' stock trades. This included an FBI inquiry into Burr.

While some individual stocks have seen gains, the stock market has lost about 15% of its value over the past three months.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.