Trump backer Collins committed insider trading at the White House picnic, says DOJ

Somewhere in this photo, Collins is yelling “sell” into a phone.
Somewhere in this photo, Collins is yelling “sell” into a phone.
Image: AP/Alex Brandon
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Chris Collins, the Republican upstate New York Congressman, surrendered himself to FBI agents this morning, alongside his son and the father of his son’s fiancee. All three have been charged with securities fraud, wire fraud, and making false statements by the Department of Justice.

Collins is a board member and major shareholder of Australian biotech Innate Immunotherapeutics. In June 2017, Collins called his son Cameron from the White House Congressional picnic with a hot tip, according to the indictment from the US attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York: A drug being developed by Innate Immunotherapeutics had failed in a crucial trial. Cameron, and his financée’s father Stephen Zarksy then dumped their holdings, the indictment says.

Later, all three men lied to investigators about the course of events, the indictment says. Collins’ Congressional office also put out a false statement about his son’s stock sale, it alleges.

Collins has been under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics for months for his touting of Innate Immunotherapeutics stock on the Hill, including to former Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price, who received a special private placement of the stock. After the indictment was made public, speaker of the House Paul Ryan kicked Collins off the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Collins was nicknamed “Trump’s man on the Hill” way back in early 2016, for his vociferous and, at the time, singular support of US presidential candidate Donald Trump. He was an early defender of Trump’s plans to put tariffs on imported goods, as part of a way to bring manufacturing back to the United States, something he considered essential America’s growth.  “Those are the middle class jobs we need back in America,” Collins told Quartz in early 2017. “Otherwise, where do we go?”

Collins described the Congressional investigation into his stock dealings as a “witch hunt” on Fox News in October of 2017, echoing a phrase Trump has long-used to describe investigations he doesn’t agree with. In recent weeks, Collins joined other House Republicans in calling for the end of FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump 2016 campaign colluded with Russia.