Earlier this year, Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) personally directed his wealth adviser to sell off $1 million worth of stock in a financial company before its share price cratered, The New York Times reported on Wednesday—a finding that flies in the face of Perdue’s repeated insistence that he has no input whatsoever over his considerable investment portfolio.
The Georgia Republican’s history of trades has come under close scrutiny after he reported purchases and sales of stocks in companies that were likely to be affected by the pandemic. The most controversial of those sales came after closed-door Senate briefings about the spread of the coronavirus in January.
Through it all, Perdue’s office has stated that the senator has no influence at all on his investment portfolio because an independent financial adviser conducts stock transactions without his input. In response to The Daily Beast’s reporting about separate stock trades, for example, a Perdue spokesperson said Perdue “doesn’t manage his trades, they are handled by outside financial advisers without his prior input or approval… No amount of lies from liberal media outlets or Democratic political groups will change that fact.”
In March, when asked on Fox News about his trading around COVID briefings, Perdue said that “like many members of the Senate, I have an outside professional that manages my personal finances. I'm not involved in the day to day.”
His office has gone further, telling media outlets that his financial advisers make every call and that “outside, independent financial advisers continue to be the only individuals making transactions.”
But that appears to be untrue. On Wednesday, the Times reported that Perdue was investigated by the Department of Justice as it probed possible insider trading from a number of lawmakers over their investment activity around the coronavirus spread. That investigation found that an executive at an Atlanta-based company called Cardlytics, where Perdue had previously served on the board, mistakenly sent Perdue a vague email in January saying changes were coming to the company.
The Times reported that after receiving that email, Perdue contacted Robert Hutchinson, his investment adviser at Goldman Sachs, and directed him to sell more than $1 million worth of stock in Cardlytics, or about 20 percent of his holdings in the company. The FBI obtained a memorialization of that conversation, according to the Times. Weeks later, the company’s stock price bottomed out after an executive shakeup and the announcement of expectations of diminished revenue. The timing of Perdue’s trades shielded him from significant loss.
Federal prosecutors closed investigations of Perdue’s trades around the coronavirus pandemic this summer, encountering no evidence he traded on nonpublic information—which is against the law. Indeed, the fact that he was accidentally sent the email may have shielded him legally because it would prove that he wasn’t proactively being tipped off.
But the probe’s finding of evidence that Perdue did, in fact, have influence over his portfolio casts his past well-timed trades in a new light. And not just those around the pandemic’s emergence earlier this year.
In previous years, as The Daily Beast reported, Perdue acquired stock in a U.S. Navy contractor as he took control of the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Navy and sold it off as he helped increase the contractor’s business. The senator also bought shares in an Atlanta-based debit card company after pushing to weaken industry regulations, and appeared to time purchases and sales around key events such as a merger, The Daily Beast reported in September.
There is no known investigation into Perdue’s pre-pandemic trades. But Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) wrote a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday requesting they probe his investment in BWX Technologies, the Naval contractor.
The senator sold off all his holdings of individual stock this year after his activity came under scrutiny from the media and federal investigators.