House ethics committee investigating Rep. Chris Collins for insider trading allegations

Ethics committee investigates Rep. Chris Collins for insider trading

The Office of Congressional Ethics said that Collins, a Republican from NY, may have shared material, nonpublic information in Australia's Innate Immunotherapeutics IIL, +6.90% INNMF, +4.09% and that he may have purchased discounted stock, not offered to the public, because he was a member of the House of Representatives.

Collins serves in an uncompensated role as a board member of Innate and is the company's largest stockholder.

A source close to the congressman, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private actions, said Collins invested about $5 million in the company over the years and did not sell any of his shares.

A federal ethics board will continue its investigation into Congressman Chris Collins after finding "substantial" reason to believe he violated federal law.

Collins released the following statement in response to the report: "Throughout my tenure in Congress I have followed all rules and ethical guidelines when it comes to my personal investments".

"I was elected to Congress based upon my success in the private sector, and my willingness to use that experience every day to facilitate an environment that creates economic opportunity and jobs", he said. The Committee notes that the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee.

Innate Immunotherapeutics' stock value has tanked by more than 94 percent in recent months and now trades for pennies a share.

Two NIH employees told OCE that Collins asked if they knew about Innate's multiple sclerosis drug and would meet with people from the company.

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Collins' attorney denied that his client did anything wrong, and insisted that the allegations against him were baseless.

A congressional ethics panel Thursday found "substantial reason to believe" that an upstate congressman and key President Trump supporter broke federal law. He said the information cited by the OCE is "is general, the result of common sense, or so widely known that it can not meet even the most lenient test of materiality".

The meeting came after Collins, in a July 2013 hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology mentioned Innate Immuno's drug to a top NIH official without disclosing his stake in the company.

Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the liberal watchdog group, said the OCE report is very telling of lax ethical behavior by Collins in his stock-trading activity.

The report recommends the House ethics committee subpoena the 10 individuals and entities that refused to cooperate with the board's investigation, including Tom Price, former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Innate and its CEO, Simon Wilkinson, and Collins' former legislative assistant, Jeff Freeland.

"Rep. Collins has done nothing improper, and his cooperation and candor during the OCE review process confirm he has nothing to hide", his legal team stated. When asked by OCE about his communications with members of Congress and staff about Innate, Collins responded: "The bigger question would be, who haven't I talked to?"

Instead, Braden said the ethics office charges against Collins "are constructed from whole cloth and are without validity".

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