U.S. Sen. David Perdue says his advisers won’t trade individual stocks

U.S. Sen. David Perdue, after seeing his portfolio scrutinized and criticized, says his advisers will no longer trade stocks in individual companies.

The Friday evening announcement coincided with the filing of a report that outlined trading on his behalf over the previous month.

“As you can see from the April report, Bonnie and I have restructured our retirement savings to eliminate individual stock trades,” Perdue said in a statement.

According to the report, after April 7 there were no purchases of company stocks made on Perdue's behalf. The monthly Periodic Transactions Report shows sales and purchases within ranges, but the senator's office provided exact figures to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Perdue’s advisers made 174 stocks sales totaling about $5.61 million in mid-April. That includes selling off shares in companies such as pharmaceutical conglomerate Pfizer, Starbucks, Delta Airlines and DuPont de Nemours, which makes personal protective equipment.

That money was generally used to purchase shares in exchange-traded funds, collections of securities similar to mutual funds. Perdue’s office said that $5.8 million in total purchases were made last month.

"This was a personal decision Senator Perdue and his wife made to avoid any confusion about their retirement savings, and they did so voluntarily," his spokeswoman Cherie Gillan said in a statement.

Georgia's other U.S. senator, Kelly Loeffler, announced a similar divestment move on April 8. The changes were reflected in reports filed last week.

Both senators have been criticized by watchdog groups and political opponents for stock trades made during the coronavirus pandemic. Government agencies have been asked to investigate them and other members of Congress to see if they used insider information during the COVID-19 pandemic to determine what companies to buy and sell shares in.

Perdue and Loeffler denied wrong-doing and said that their stock trades were handled by advisers who operated independently and without their input.

Government transparency groups have said members of Congress should not own stocks in individual companies in order to avoid allegations of conflicts of interest. These groups have urged lawmakers to put their wealth in blind trusts or invest in mutual or exchange-traded funds instead.

Although Perdue is now mostly divested from trading in individual companies’ stocks, his office said he kept about $4 million in shares of three companies where he served as a board member before becoming a member of Congress. Shares in those stocks were Perdue’s compensation for his service, and they are held in brokerage accounts that will not be traded.

The recent changes returned Perdue’s portfolio to about the same value it was at the beginning of the year, even as the stock market has experienced large fluctuations during the virus outbreak. Perdue’s office said his portfolio was valued $21.3 million in December, dipped to $18.3 million in March and was back to $21.8 million in April.