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Georgia Senate runoff: Republican Perdue boosted his wealth with well-timed stock trades

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Because the ravages of the novel coronavirus compelled tens of millions of individuals out of labor, shuttered companies and shrank the worth of retirement accounts, the Dow Jones Industrial Common plunged to a three-year low.

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However for Sen. David Perdue, a Georgia Republican, the disaster final March signaled one thing else: a inventory shopping for alternative.

And for the second time in lower than two months, Perdue’s timing was impeccable. He averted a pointy loss and reaped a shocking acquire by promoting after which shopping for the identical inventory: Cardlytics, an Atlanta-based monetary know-how firm on whose board of administrators he as soon as served.

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On Jan. 23, as phrase unfold by means of Congress that the coronavirus posed a significant financial and public well being menace, Perdue offered off $1 million to $5 million in Cardlytics inventory at $86 a share earlier than it plunged, in response to congressional disclosures.

Weeks later, in March, after the corporate’s inventory plunged additional following an surprising management shakeup and lower-than-forecast earnings, Perdue purchased the inventory again for $30 a share, investing between $200,000 and $500,000.

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These shares have now quadrupled in worth, closing at $121 a share on Tuesday.

The Cardlytics transactions have been only a slice of numerous funding choices made within the early days of the pandemic by Perdue and different senators. They stirred public outrage after it grew to become clear that some members of Congress had been briefed on the financial and well being menace the virus posed. The transactions have been talked about briefly in a narrative printed by the Intercept in Could.

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Now that Perdue is locked in a pitched battle for reelection in a Jan. 5 runoff, his trades throughout a public health and economic crisis have turn out to be a difficulty in what already has turn out to be a destructive, costly marketing campaign that can decide which party controls the Senate.

There isn’t any proof that Perdue, who’s among the many wealthier members of the Senate, acted on data gained as a member of Congress or by means of his long-standing relationship with firm officers. It’s unlawful to make use of nonpublic data gained as an organization insider or member of Congress to make funding choices.

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However authorized specialists say the timing of his sale, the truth that he shortly purchased Cardlytics inventory again when it had misplaced two-thirds of its market worth and his shut ties to firm officers all warrant scrutiny.

“This does appear suspicious,” mentioned John C. Espresso Jr., a Columbia College legislation college professor who focuses on company and securities points. However he added, “You want greater than suspicions to convict.”

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The Perdue marketing campaign declined a request for an interview with the senator. In a press release, Perdue spokesperson John Burke mentioned the senator had been cleared of wrongdoing however didn’t present particulars.

“The bi-partisan Senate Ethics Committee, DOJ and SEC all independently and swiftly cleared Senator Perdue months in the past, which was reported on,” Burke mentioned.

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Perdue’s opponent, Democrat Jon Ossoff, has seized on his inventory buying and selling whereas making an attempt to model him as a “criminal.”

Perdue is just not the one senator on the poll in Georgia. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, additionally a Republican, is working in opposition to Democrat Raphael Warnock in a bid to finish the rest of retired Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term.

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Perdue’s Cardlytics transactions match right into a broader sample of inventory strikes he made when the coronavirus first struck the U.S.

On the time, Perdue publicly maintained that the financial system was robust and praised President Donald Trump throughout a Feb. 24 interview on Fox Information Channel for “executing the best financial turnaround in U.S. historical past.”

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A collection of swift transactions in his portfolio advised a distinct story, nevertheless, displaying the senator dumped some firm shares, whereas investing in others — like protecting gear maker DuPont and pharmaceutical firm Pfizer — that have been poised to do nicely through the pandemic.

Perdue has beforehand mentioned that exterior monetary advisers make most of his trades.

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However Donna Nagy, an Indiana College legislation professor, mentioned that sort of association doesn’t preclude Perdue from directing an adviser to make particular transactions. She mentioned a technique for members of Congress to keep away from questions on their monetary holdings is to place them in a blind belief, which Perdue has not executed.

“All of those questions concerning the motivations behind our members of Congress and their private securities buying and selling may very well be alleviated if Congress handed a legislation that restricted investments,” mentioned Nagy, who focuses on securities legislation. “Odd residents mustn’t need to query members of Congress about their investments.”

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The difficulty was sufficient of a legal responsibility that Perdue abruptly offered off between $3.2 million and $9.4 million of his inventory portfolio over a four-day interval in mid-April, in response to an Related Press overview of necessary monetary disclosures he has submitted to the Senate. He didn’t promote his inventory in Cardlytics.

Nonetheless, Perdue has largely averted the identical diploma of scrutiny confronted by a few of his colleagues.

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Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina drew essentially the most consideration and stepped down as Senate Intelligence Committee chair amid a probe of his sale of upward of $1.7 million in inventory, which got here when he was privately warning some well-heeled constituents concerning the virus whereas publicly downplaying the menace.

Cardlytics works on the intersection of banking and on-line advertising and marketing. It helps run rewards applications for monetary establishments, together with Wells Fargo, utilizing knowledge the banks have gathered on their prospects to market to them — much like what Facebook does with focused advertisements.

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The corporate didn’t reply to a request for remark.

After the March turmoil, its share value dramatically rebounded. Lynne Laube, Cardlytics’ present CEO, mentioned the pandemic had rather a lot to do with it, driving shopper curiosity in financial savings applications.

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“I hate to say this pandemic is taking part in in our favor, but it surely’s taking part in in our favor,” she mentioned throughout an earnings name in Could.

Perdue acquired 75,000 shares in Cardlytics by means of inventory choices provided for his service on the corporate’s board from 2010 to 2014, when he stepped down after successful his Senate seat, Securities and Trade Fee filings present. The corporate, which on the time had not but gone public, additionally provided him choices that will turn out to be accessible in October 2020 and January 2022.

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Perdue’s newest monetary disclosures don’t point out whether or not he has exercised the choices that grew to become accessible in October.

However in response to Espresso, the Columbia College legislation professor, it’s an uncommon transfer by the corporate.

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“I’ve by no means seen choices prolonged from 2014 to 2022,” he mentioned. “That’s a really lengthy extension.”

Whereas Perdue left the corporate’s board, he has maintained ties to a few of its executives, who’ve donated greater than $30,000 to his political committees. Donations made to Perdue account for almost 80% of all giving to federal candidates by Cardlytics workers over the previous decade, data present.

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Perdue, in the meantime, has used social media to publicize the corporate. In August 2016, he took a tour of its workplace and posed for a photograph with Laube and then-CEO Scott Grimes, which he posted to Fb. In fall 2019, he launched Laube and Grimes at a gala in Atlanta, the place they obtained a enterprise achievement award.

Isakson, who served with Perdue, took steps to keep away from the kind of scrutiny Perdue is now going through. Isakson, a Republican, put most of his personal holdings in a blind belief after a few of his belongings drew undesirable consideration in 2012.

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“I mentioned I must be as patently pure and patently clear as anyone, and one of the best ways to do this is a blind belief,” Isakson, who served on the Senate’s finance and ethics committees, advised the Atlanta Journal Structure in 2017. “I don’t know what I personal.”

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