U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, blamed "filing errors" by his accountants for why his ethics disclosure statements failed to cite specific dates on a dozen trades he made on stocks of Chattanooga-based CBL & Associates Properties Inc.
The trades sometimes amounted to millions of dollars and significant gains, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
This was Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, commercial developer and millionaire whose personal and government expertise in all things financial and investment landed him a seat at the negotiating tables on many a national money issue — ranging from the country's Wall Street/mortgage bust to automaker bailouts to internet sales taxing.
This was Corker, Tennessee's former commissioner of finance and administration under Gov. Don Sundquist.
This was Corker, someone you would think would use his own expertise and sharp-eyed experience to pour over his own disclosures and financial filings — even if a trusted accountant had handled them.
"I am extremely disappointed in the filing errors that were made in these earlier reports where the accounting firm mistakenly used realized gain/loss methodology instead of the Senate financial disclosure guidelines," the Tennessee Republican said in a statement. "Therefore, in a few cases, only the sale and gain or loss of the transaction was reported."
But until recently, after questions from the Wall Street Journal, Corker hadn't made public a dozen stock purchases in CBL, including several that resulted in his most profitable investments. In one, Corker purchased between $1 million and $5 million in CBL shares in late 2011 and sold them five months later for a 42 percent gain. A pair of purchases in 2009 in accounts in the name of his daughters likely netted more than $1 million, though in that case the exact gain is impossible to calculate, the Journal reported. CBL owns and manages shopping centers, including Hamilton Place mall.
The Journal also noted that some of Corker's newly disclosed trades came during a period of heightened scrutiny of financial investments by members of Congress and as Corker was preparing to run for re-election in 2012. The accountant, David DiStefano, a partner at G.R. Rush & Co. PLLC and a former Chattanooga City Council member, fell on his sword.
This isn't the first time Corker's business dealings have made news.
When Corker was mayor, his holdings were in a blind trust. Later Times Free Press examinations of city emails indicated then-mayor Corker used his City Hall email account to get updates on one of his business investments, schedule meetings with business partners and pass along contacts to help the struggling venture.
When Corker was running for his Senate seat in 2006, he had nine federal lease contracts earning his companies $887,355 a year for local IRS and U.S. Bankruptcy Court offices, among other government tenants. Because of Senate Ethics oversight of a U.S. law prohibiting members of Congress from benefiting from contracts with the government, Corker, after his win, sold the real estate holdings with federal leases to Henry Luken, a Chattanoogan who contributed heavily to Corker's campaign. Corker has said he has never accepted his Senate salary. Since taking office in 2007, his salary has gone directly to the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga which distributes it to various charities.
It's not easy being Bob Corker. But he of all people should understand financial scrutiny.