David Perdue’s stock trading saw an uptick as coronavirus took hold

Perdue spokeswoman says financial advisers control the senator's portfolio and handle all trading on his behalf. (Tyson Horne / tyson.horne@ajc.com)

U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s financial portfolio saw heavy trading during the month of March, a period during which Congress passed three different spending bills to address the spread of COVID-19 and the markets took a turn for the worse.

The report lists 112 transactions, including 76 stock purchases costing as much as $1.8 million and 34 sales worth up to $825,000. Compared with the 26-month period before the coronavirus swept across America, Perdue's portfolio activity has increased nearly threefold. There were an average of 38 individual transactions in monthly reports from January 2018 through February 2020.

Perdue logged 82 transactions on the report dated March 3. The report filed Sunday includes 110 stock-related line items.

Trading volume was up overall in March, with activity on the Dow Jones index more than double compared with one year prior. Raymond Hill, a professor of finance at Emory University, said the influx of new and sometimes conflicting information during the coronavirus pandemic spurred the flurry of activity.

“The result of that is you get huge volatility, and the volatility is a reflection of people doing a lot of trading in response to the latest big news,” Hill said.

Georgia’s senior senator, who is up for re-election this year, faced questions last month about his trading during the coronavirus pandemic and whether he used insider information to make a profit during the pandemic. But Perdue has not dealt with the same level of criticism as his counterpart, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, whose stock sell-off has led to calls for investigations and her resignation.

MORE: A map of coronavirus cases in Georgia

MORE: Real-time stats and the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak

Perdue, like the others, said he has followed all rules and done nothing wrong.

“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,” said his spokeswoman, Cherie Gillan. “For the past five years, the senator has fully complied with federal law and all Senate ethics requirements.”

As trading by Perdue and other senators during the novel coronavirus outbreak is scrutinized, securities law experts and some Democrats have said the law should be changed to prohibit members of Congress from buying or selling stocks for individual companies.

Perdue, a multi-millionaire former CEO, has avoided widespread criticism because he has done much more investing in the market in recent weeks than selling. However, some of those trades have been questioned, and transactions in the report filed over the weekend are likely to face the same scrutiny.

For example, he made a number of purchases of stock in DuPont de Nemours, a chemical company that supplies personal protective equipment used by people trying to avoid exposure to the virus. That includes buying shares worth as much as $65,000 on Jan. 24, the same day that the Senate held a members-only briefing on the novel coronavirus.

In total, Perdue reported 10 different DuPont stock purchases through March 2, representing an investment of up to $185,000.

He also continued to sell off shares of Caesar Entertainment, the casino company whose properties were shuttered as the virus spread. On March 26 the senator invested up to $50,000 in streaming provider Netflix, which has seen a surge in traffic as people stay home.

However, Perdue’s financial disclosures also list transactions that appear to contradict allegations he is profiting off inside information about the virus. He sold nearly $400,000 in shares of Kroger, even as the grocer faces increased demand. He invested as much as $75,000 in retailer Urban Outfitter before all its stores were closed, although savvy investors often buy a stock when its price is down and they think it’s a good value.

Perdue’s spokeswoman said everything on his report reflects business as usual with his financial advisers making every call. The senator has spent recent weeks focused on connecting Georgians affected by the pandemic with information and resources, including helping those stuck overseas find a way home, she said.

Audience specialist Isaac Sabetai contributed to this report.

Read more: Loeffler reports more stock sales, denies wrongdoing

Also: Questions remain about who is handling Kelly Loeffler’s stock transactions

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