A new report in The New York Times dives into the stock trading practices of Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue, who is running for reelection in a January runoff, finding that he repeatedly traded stocks of companies that he oversaw. The Times previously reported that the Justice Department is looking into trades Perdue made earlier this year related to Cardlytics.
Conservative radio host Erick Erickson, who has been defending Perdue, has immediately dismissed it as “old news.”
The December 2 report by Stephanie Saul, Kate Kelly, and Michael LaForgia highlights that Purdue made almost 2,600 trades in his six years in office, far outpacing any other senator. It starts by noting how often he’s traded in a company that he has cited in his official work in the Senate:
As a member of the Senate’s cybersecurity subcommittee, David Perdue has raised alarms that hackers from overseas pose a threat to U.S. computer networks. Citing a frightening report by a California-based company called FireEye, Mr. Perdue was among the senators who asked this spring that the National Guard prepare to protect against such data breaches.
Not only was the issue important to Mr. Perdue, so was FireEye, a federal contractor that provides malware detection and threat-intelligence services. Beginning in 2016, the senator bought and sold FireEye stock 61 times, at one point owning as much as $250,000 worth of shares in the company.
Nearly half of Mr. Perdue’s FireEye trades, for example, occurred while he sat on the cybersecurity panel, a role that potentially could have provided him with nonpublic information about companies like FireEye. During that period, FireEye landed a subcontract worth more than $30 million with the Army Cyber Command, which had operations at Fort Gordon, in Mr. Perdue’s home state. In 2018, Mr. Perdue reported capital gains of up to $15,000 from FireEye trades.
The report also notes that not only did Perdue trade in financial companies he oversaw, but that his (and Erickson’s) contention of limited involvement is undermined by revelations in that prior reporting:
And as a member of the Senate banking, housing, and urban affairs committee since 2017, Mr. Perdue bought and sold shares of a number of financial companies his panel oversaw, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Regions Financial.
Mr. Perdue disputes the notion that his investment activity posed a conflict, saying that his trades were handled by outside advisers without his input, although his instructions to Goldman Sachs to sell Cardlytics suggest that he directed at least some trades.
Most importantly, this report establishes a pattern. The Washington Post summarized:
This January, some senators attended a classified briefing this spring about the coronavirus. Loeffler was one of them, and her stock trades afterward drew prominent attention. Perdue did not attend that briefing, but he, too, bought stock in businesses that stood to benefit from a pandemic, such as Pfizer. (Sen. Richard Burr [R-N.C.] is still under investigation by the Justice Department for his trades.)
Both Perdue and Loeffler said they didn’t do anything wrong. Loeffler said her trades were made by an investment firm. Perdue said most of his investments were made by an independent adviser, though the Associated Press recently noted he still could have told that adviser what to buy and sell.
The Justice Department closed its look into Perdue’s coronavirus-related stock trades, as it did Loeffler’s. But with Perdue they found something else to review: his sale of more than $1 million in stock in January from an Atlanta financial company for which he previously sat on the board, weeks before that CEO stepped down and the stock price plummeted.
Perdue bought the stock back at a low price, and it has since quadrupled, reports the AP. Shortly before Perdue sold his stock in this company, Cardlytics, the New York Times reports that investigators found an email from the CEO to Perdue that mentioned “the upcoming change’” in the company. When Perdue replied he didn’t know what change he was talking about, the CEO later responded he had sent the email to the wrong David. Perdue still told his financial adviser to sell the stock, the Times reports.
New reporting after the election, first from the Daily Beast and then confirmed by the Times, found more eyebrow-raising trades from Perdue. In 2019, he became chair of a subcommittee that oversees the Navy. Right before that, he bought stock in a contractor that works with the Navy that ultimately benefited from legislation on which Perdue worked.