Photo: Jonathan Ernst, Reuters
A government watchdog group filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Senate Select Committee on Ethics on Tuesday alleging that Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker may have engaged in insider stock trades and made false statements on his personal financial disclosure forms.
In the letter, the Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit government watchdog, called attention to trades Corker and members of his family made on the stock of a Chattanooga-based real estate company called CBL & Associates Properties.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Corker had failed to disclose a dozen trades on the stock. The paper’s analysis also showed that he profited handsomely on a series of trades he made between 2008 and 2015.
Corker also recently amended his disclosures to show that he purchased between $1 million and $5 million of CBL stock in 2009. He sold it five months later and reaped a 42 percent profit, according to The Journal.
Corker made another purchase of between $3 million and $15 million worth of CBL stock in 2010 just before the investment bank UBS upgraded its outlook. The stock jumped 18 percent on the news, and Corker began selling. UBS downgraded the stock a week after that, and shares fell 10 percent.
Corker reaped profits of between $1 million and $5 million on CBL stock in both 2010 and 2012, according to The Journal.
Corker made another timely purchase — also previously undisclosed — on behalf of his daughters on March 9, 2009. He purchased between $200,000 and $500,000 worth of CBL stock when it was trading near its low of $2.07 per share. Those shares were first sold on May 12, 2010 at around $16 per share, netting Corker’s daughters a nice payday of approximately $1 million.
In 2011, Corker told The Journal that his gains came from good timing of CBL’s volatile stock.
He said he “watched the trading range on this hometown-based stock” and “found that especially during times of market volatility it trades within wide ranges.”
“I’ve bought it heavily when it is at the low end of that range and then I hold it until there is upward movement, when I sell,” he told The Journal.
But in its letter, CfA asserts that Corker has changed his explanation for failing to report the stock trades. In 2013, Corker stated that his accountant blamed UBS for failing to properly report the stock trades to him for his 2011 financial disclosure. In 2011, however, Corker accepted responsibility for the reporting error, CfA claims.
Corker has close ties to CBL. He previously worked for a construction company that contracted with CBL. And company executives, employees and their spouses have donated heavily to Corker’s campaigns.
“Sen. Corker’s trades followed a consistent pattern — he bought low and sold high. It beggars belief to suggest these trades — netting the senator and his family millions — were mere coincidences,” CfA executive director Anne Weismann said in a statement.