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Call Made From Picnic Led to Charges for Rep. Chris Collins

Indictment alleges he read an email about a failed drug trial, alerted his son
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2018 9:20 AM CDT
Updated Aug 8, 2018 1:57 PM CDT

(Newser) – GOP Rep. Chris Collins surrendered to federal agents in New York on Wednesday to face insider trading charges. CNBC quotes the Justice Department as saying the indictment is tied to "securities of Innate Immunotherapeutics ... an Australian biotechnology company on whose board of directors Christopher Collins served." The allegation is that Collins told his son Cameron nonpublic information about the company's drug trials in order to facilitate "timely trades." His son allegedly both acted on the information and conveyed it to Stephen Zarsky, the father of his fiancee. Zarsky is also said to have made trades. More:

  • The info allegedly allowed Cameron Collins, Zarsky, and others to sidestep more than $768,000 in losses that they would have otherwise experienced, per the indictment. Both of those men are charged as well.

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  • The AP reports Innate was working on the development of a drug for people with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS).
  • NPR gets into the details of the accusation via the indictment, which alleges that while at the June 22, 2017, congressional picnic in DC, Collins read an email from Innate's CEO alerting him that the SPMS drug, which "had the potential to be enormously profitable," had failed a clinical trial. At 7:10pm, he replied to the email, writing, "Wow. Makes no sense. How are these results even possible???"
  • He called his son at 7:11pm; the two didn't connect until 7:16pm, at which point they spoke for six minutes. Cameron then allegedly informed Zarsky of the news. The two men subsequently made trades.
  • Attorneys for Rep. Collins says they are "confident he will be completely vindicated and exonerated" and point out the elder Collins isn't accused of unloading his own shares, which ended up losing all but 8% of their value. But NPR notes the indictment specifies that his stock was held in Australia, where trading had been put on ice prior to the announcement. Shares held by his son and Zarsky were in the US.
  • CNBC reports Zarsky's wife Dorothy and Cameron Collins' fiancee, Lauren Zarsky, also allegedly made trades based on the information; the women have already settled with the SEC.
  • What House Speaker Paul Ryan had to say in a statement, per the Buffalo News: "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. ... Until this matter is settled, Rep. Collins will no longer be serving on the House Energy and Commerce Committee."
  • CNN adds that the first endorsement of Donald Trump's presidential bid by a sitting member of Congress came from Collins. NBC News reports Collins is up for re-election in November and had been expected to be a shoo-in.
(Read more insider trading stories.)

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