Ethics Committee extends review of Rep. Chris Collins

Credit File

Credit File

Collins is a board member of Innate Immunotherapeutics and holds stock in the Australian company.

The House ethics committee is investigating New York Rep. Chris Collins, the first Republican on Capitol Hill to endorse Donald Trump's presidential campaign, for potentially violating federal law and House rules regarding insider trading.

His Congressional staff later set up a meeting with N.I.H staff. Mr. Collins told them that he was associated with Innate and asked one employee - an expert on multiple sclerosis - for assistance with the company's clinical trial, the report said.

Collins strongly denied any wrongdoing, saying that "throughout my tenure in Congress I have followed all rules and ethical guidelines when it comes to my personal investments". The ethics committee announced in the release of the report that it would start a review of Collins.

Collins's legal team further argued that the information in Collins's messages to investors was public knowledge and dismissed OCE's conclusion that any of the material it deemed nonpublic was relevant to investors. But the OCE report released Thursday details an instance when the NY congressman raised 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 said Thursday that the NIH meeting was cleared in advance by the House Ethics Committee: "They said, "As long as there's no nonpublic information discussed" - and there certainly wasn't - 'sure, you can go on a tour anywhere you want.' " There is no mention of any official clearance for the meeting in the OCE report.

"Rep. Collins has done nothing improper, and his cooperation and candor during the OCE review process confirm he has nothing to hide", Mark Braden wrote in August to the Ethics Committee on the Congressman's behalf.

A watchdog on Thursday said Rep. Chris Collins may have broken federal law when he took actions to help a biotech in which he held a big stake.

The OCE recommended the dismissal of a third allegation, that Collins purchased discounted stock that was offered to him because he's a congressman. He noted that the central allegation from Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. - that he supported a bill, the 21st Century Cures Act, that could have benefited Innate Immuno - was not supported by investigators.

"He put his obsession to enrich himself before the people he swore to represent", said Slaughter, a Fairport Democrat who authored the STOCK Act, the law that Collins may have violated.

OCE identified multiple instances in which Collins provided updates to US investors regarding clinical trials and a private placement offering.

"Given Innate's intention to partner with, or become acquired by a large pharmaceutical company, updates on patient enrollment, the eventual completion of enrollment, and specific communications with pharmaceutical companies were likely important facts for investors making a decision about whether to purchase or sell Innate stock", the report said.

Price did not cooperate with the OCE probe, according to the report.

Recommendations have been made to issue subpoenas to ten individuals regarding this case, including former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price. 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. Prior to 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.

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