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NYT: Justice Dept. probed Georgia Sen. Perdue’s stock sales at beginning of pandemic

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 02: Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) speaks to reporters in the Senate Basement before a weekly policy luncheon on April 2, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images via CNN)

(CNN) — The Justice Department opened a probe into Georgia Sen. David Perdue’s stock sales for possible insider trading earlier this year but declined to pursue charges, according to The New York Times.

The inquiry looked at Perdue’s sale of more than $1 million worth of stock in Cardlytics, a financial company he once served as a board member of, in the spring ahead of the economic slowdown fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, the newspaper reported. Weeks after selling the stock, the company’s stock price dropped and ended up at $29. Perdue then bought back portions of the stock he sold, which are now trading at $120 a share, according to the Times. Citing four people with knowledge of the case, the newspaper reported that investigators were reviewing Perdue’s trading for “possible evidence of insider trading.”

Scott Grimes, co-founder and CEO of Cardlytics at the time, sent an email to Perdue two days before the stock sale that mentioned “upcoming changes.” According to the Times, investigators concluded it “contained no meaningful nonpublic information and declined to pursue charges, closing the case this summer.”

In a statement to CNN, Casey Black, a spokesperson for Perdue, said, “Separate reviews by the Department of Justice, the Securities & Exchange Commission, and the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee each quickly and independently cleared Senator Perdue of any wrongdoing.

“Senator Perdue has always followed the law,” Black said in the statement.

CNN reached out to the Justice Department for comment Thursday.

Democrat Jon Ossoff, who will face Perdue in a runoff election in January, has criticized his opponent over the alleged stock sales, contending that the Republican declined to debate him in October over the incident. During an interview with CNN’s Kate Bolduan Wednesday night, Ossoff called Perdue “a crook who abused his office to enrich himself.”

Congress passed the Stock Act in 2012, which made it illegal for lawmakers to use inside information for financial benefit. Under insider trading laws, prosecutors would need to prove the lawmakers traded based on material non-public information they received in violation of a duty to keep it confidential.

Other members of Congress have faced scrutiny over whether they sought to profit from the information they obtained in non-public briefings about the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this year, investigators began examining stock trades by North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr. Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican who is also facing a runoff election in January, and her husband sold 27 stocks valued between $1.275 million and $3.1 million from January 24 through February 14, according to Senate records. Investigators probed her stock sales but closed the investigation and Loeffler has maintained she did nothing wrong. The Justice Department also closed it’s investigation into stock sales by Sens. Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, and Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat.

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