House Ethics Committee Probes GOP Rep. Chris Collins for Insider Trading
The House Ethics Committee is investigating New York Republican congressman Chris Collins for potentially violating federal law and House rules regarding insider trading. Collins was the first Republican on Capitol Hill to endorse Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
The non-partisan Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) began a review of Collins’ insider trading activity in March and voted to send its findings to the House ethics panel in July, which can formally launch investigations and recommend sanctions against any lawmaker that has broken any rules.
The ethics committee released a report detailing how Rep. Collins met with officials at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to discuss the development of a drug made by Innate, a company that Collins served on its board.
According to the report by OCE, released Thursday by the Ethics committee, “There is a substantial reason to believe that Representative Collins shared material nonpublic information in the purchase of Innate stock, in violation of House rules, standards of conduct and federal law.”
Rep. Collins released the following statement in response to the insider trading report: “Throughout my tenure in Congress I have followed all rules and ethical guidelines when it comes to my 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. I thank the House Ethics Committee for their meticulous review of this case and for the tough work they do to hold all Members of Congress accountable to the highest standards of conduct.”
“There is a substantial reason to believe that Representative Collins shared material nonpublic information in the purchase of Innate stock, in violation of House rules, standards of conduct and federal law.”
OCE told the ethics panel that the NIH meeting raised insider trading questions because Collins “took official actions or requested official actions that would assist a single entity in which he had a significant financial interest.”
In a joint statement, House Ethics Chair Susan Brooks, an Indiana Republican and the top Democrat, Rep. Ted Deutch 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 reflects any judgment on behalf of the committee.”
The OCE report includes emails from Collins that he sent to shareholders with information that the ethics watchdog says could have been important to investors about whether or not they should buy Innate stock. The emails discuss details of patients enrolled in trials of an Innate drug that was developed and discusses plans for a “private placement offering” of stock.
Collins maintained that the information was available through public information, but OCE retained an expert to determine what information was available and what it deemed “nonpublic.
Previous media reports raised questions about Collins’ role in Innate and in sharing information about the company with other lawmakers. However, the OCE report released Thursday details an instance when the New York Congressman raised a specific issue about an Innate drug at a public hearing before the House science committee where a witness from the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke was testifying in 2013.
Collins did not disclose his connection to Innate, but after his exchange with the witness, the NIH invited him to meet with other government researchers to hear about their work. Soon after the hearing, his office reached out to the NIH and set up a visit.
Before his visit, an aide to Collins notified the organizer of the meeting that he was involved with Innate, a company that was working on a drug to treat multiple sclerosis.
Collins told OCE that the visit was a “high school field trip” and compared it to going to “the Smithsonian” and that he was there as a private citizen, not as a member of Congress.
OCE interviewed one NIH employee about that visit in 2013 who said Collins told them that Innate needed help with a Phase 2 drug trial and asked them to help, and she agreed. The employee also said that Collins left a coin with a congressional stamp on it and asked her for her business card.
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