I had a feeling we hadn’t heard the last of these stories and as more time goes by there could very well be more to come. Another Senator has been discovered to have done a hefty amount of stock sales and purchases shortly after being briefed on the potential severity of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, on the same day that the Senate Intelligence Committee received their briefing, Senator David Perdue (R-GA), who is on the committee, purchased a significant amount of stock in a manufacturer of medical personal protective equipment. On that same day, his portfolio recorded more than 80 additional trades. The Senator’s office has an explanation, however. (Business Insider)
Sen. David Perdue of Georgia bought stock in DuPont de Nemours, a chemical company that produces personal protective equipment (PPE), on the same day the Senate received a classified briefing on the spread of the novel coronavirus, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Monday.
The revelation came from Perdue’s financial portfolio, which he filed on Sunday and which includes 110 items related to stock trades…
Perdue’s disclosure form lists 112 transactions, 82 of which were made on March 3. Seventy-six were stock purchases of as much as $1.8 million. The report also documents 34 stock sales worth as much as $825,000. The Journal-Constitution reported that Perdue’s portfolio activity from March onward was three times busier than it was in the last 13-month period before the coronavirus hit the United States.
Before proceeding, let’s hear the Senator’s side of things. His spokesperson released a statement saying that Perdue has, for his entire time in the Senate, had “an outside adviser managing his personal finances, and he is not involved in day-to-day decisions.” She went on to say that the Senator has fully complied with federal law and all applicable Senate ethics rules.
Perhaps so. But as anyone who has used the services of a financial adviser knows, there’s also nothing stopping you from picking up the phone and asking a question or making a suggestion about investments you might like to add or get rid of. Simply saying that Perdue isn’t “involved in day-to-day decisions” about his portfolio doesn’t mean that he didn’t feed his advisor some hot tips after that briefing.
To be clear, I’m also not saying it definitely proves that he did, either. But wouldn’t a more convincing statement have included something along the lines of saying that neither the Senator nor anyone associated with him had any contact with the financial adviser or anyone at their firm and passed no information related to the briefing to them?
Making this all the more interesting to the media is the fact that Perdue’s Georgia counterpart in the Senate, Kelly Loeffler, was one of the other members who came under scrutiny recently for stock trading activity following briefings on the pandemic. Again, that’s not definitive evidence of guilt, but it certainly doesn’t do anything to improve the optics of all this. So to be clear, I’m not saying anything has been proven against Senator Perdue at this point. I’m not even sure if or how it could be proven. But this is a clear reminder that we could be doing better when it comes to questions like this.
Just having ethics rules against this flavor of alleged insider trading clearly isn’t enough in some cases. Perhaps something a bit more secure could be put in place. We already demand that presidents put their investments into a blind trust when taking office. I’m not suggesting it be made mandatory for members of Congress, but they could certainly inspire a lot of confidence from the public if they voluntarily agreed to turn their investment affairs over to some sort of firm that would forbid any contact with the client until they left office.
Is that asking too much of them? I don’t think so. Every member of the House and Senate is holding their seat because they volunteered to go to Washington and serve the public. If any of them learn of confidential information through the course of their jobs and their first instinct is to go profit off of it without telling the rest of us, there’s a serious problem going on. Isolating themselves from even the appearance of any such impropriety would go a long way in restoring public trust in the federal government.