U.S. Senator, or Day Trader?

The nation’s business should be enough to keep a U.S. Senator occupied full-time, but Tennessee’s Bob Corker has somehow managed to carve out time as a day trader.

The Wall Street Journal today details a large number of short-term trades in shares of a CBL & Associates, Inc., a Chattanooga real estate company that Corker has had strong ties to for decades. The Journal reports that Corker, who entered the Senate in 2007, bought or sold CBL stock 45 times in recent years. There were also 25 trades reported on accounts belonging to his wife and two daughters.

Corker made a lot of money in real estate development and other investments before getting into politics and getting elected mayor of Chattanooga. His portfolio includes a diverse range of widely-traded stocks but his frequent trading of CBL stands out.

For example, Corker purchased between $1 million and $5 million in shares of CBL in late 2011 and sold the shares five months later for a 42% gain, according to revised financial disclosure documents, the Journal reported. In addition, purchases in 2009 in accounts in the name of his daughters might have netted more than $1 million. Another series of trade worth noting is when Corker bought and sold a number of shares of CBL in June and July of 2010, displaying an uncanny sense of the timing of changes in UBS Securities’ ratings of the stock. Many of the trades discussed in the Journal’s story came to light only recently, after the paper reportedly raised questions about his financial disclosure reports.

Corker’s interest and insight in market activity might explain why he felt the compulsion to urge investors to short–sell stock in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac several weeks ago. Corker’s comments on CNBC raised a lot of eyebrows, given his leading role in legislative efforts to dismantle the GSEs and shift their activities to other mortgage finance players, namely large banks.

It will be interesting to see if CNBC or other media platforms will invite Corker to explain his knack for day trading, notwithstanding his position on the Senate Banking Committee.

Corker knows CBL very well. He worked for the company right after college, started his own construction company a few years later and invested in shopping malls and office buildings. Several CBL executives have donated to his campaigns.

It will be interesting to see what else develops.