Posted: 11:03 am Wednesday, August 8th, 2018
By Jamie Dupree
In an investigation into investments in an Australian biotech firm, federal prosecutors have charged Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), his son, and his son’s father-in-law with conspiracy and securities fraud, alleging that they used inside information to shield themselves from major financial losses.
Collins, one of the staunchest allies of President Donald Trump in the Congress, was also charged with lying to the FBI during an April 2018 interview, as prosecutors charge that he relayed information about a failed drug trial by the company, Innate Immunotherapuetics.
“While his guilt or innocence is a question for the courts to settle, the allegations against Rep. Collins demand a prompt and thorough investigation by the House Ethics Committee,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, who took Collins off the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee hours after the indictments were made public.
Neither the Speaker, nor House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, called for Collins to resign.
Federal prosecutors said the charges were straightforward – that Collins wrongly took non-public information, and gave it to his son, and his son’s in-laws.
“Today, we announce criminal charges against Christopher Collins, a United States congressman. Congressman Collins is charged with insider trading and lying to the FBI," says US Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York https://t.co/s8dnfU84ia pic.twitter.com/sHmNuudmOW
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 8, 2018
The charges say that the Congressman’s son, Cameron Collins, used information from his father to trade his stock in Innate, and also passed it on to his father-in-law, who forwarded to others as well.
“All of the trades preceded the public release of the negative Drug Trial results, and were timed to avoid losses that they would have suffered once the news became public,” the criminal complaint filed by prosecutors read.
The feds say Collins found out about the drug trial failure while he was attending the Congressional picnic at the White House in June of 2017.
“We are confident he will be completely vindicated and exonerated,” attorneys for Collins said in a statement issued before his arraignment.
STATEMENT: Attorneys for Rep. Collins Respond to Charges Filed Today https://t.co/rzNnUmyJDd
— Rep. Chris Collins (@RepChrisCollins) August 8, 2018
The Congressman did not trade his shares, because of restrictions involving Innate shares in Australia, but he “instead tipped” his son, who quickly moved the next morning ‘to sell approximately 16,508 shares of Innate.”
The charges say Cameron Collins not only sold shares, but also told his fiancee, his father-in-law, his mother-in-law, and a friend, about the drug trial failure, allowing them to sell shares in the company, and avoid major financial losses.
The Congressman, his son, and his son’s father-in-law also all face charges of making false statements to the FBI, denying that they had been wrongly given any inside information by Rep. Collins about Innate’s drug trial failure.
Collins had been under a U.S. House Ethics Committee review over questions about whether he had received inside information about the stock – and there had also been stories about whether he wrongly forwarded information to other lawmakers, who purchased stock as well.
“The charges against Congressman Collins show the rampant culture of corruption and self-enrichment among Republicans in Washington today,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“The Ethics Committee must accelerate its own investigation into Congressman Collins’ illegal abuse of the public trust,” she added in a statement.
None of them were linked in any way to this indictment.
Price, who was President Trump’s first HHS Secretary until resigning in late September of 2017, may have made out the best of any lawmaker who bought the Innate stock – Price was forced to sell his stock in February 2017 as part of a divestment agreement when he joined the Trump Cabinet.
Just a few months later in June of 2017 came news of the failed drug trial, and the plunge in the share value of Innate.