House Ethics Office Says New York Congressman May Have Violated Rules
Oct 13 2017 by Desiree Burns
The report details how Collins met with officials at the National Institutes of Health to discuss the development of a drug made by Innate, a company whose board he served on.
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.
Collins, who has denied any wrongdoing, was the largest shareholder of Australia's Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited and sat on the company's board of directors.
The report's findings could leave Collins, an early supporter of President Donald Trump's presidential campaign, vulnerable to ethics sanctions or even potential criminal prosecution based on allegations of insider trading. "There is nothing in the record to suggest, let alone support, the conclusion that Rep. Collins violated House rules, standards of conduct, or federal law". Such reports must be approved by the House or by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Committee. He brought one of his staffers to the meeting, where he asked an NIH expert on multiple sclerosis to help the company with its clinical trial. He described the inquiry as being the result of a "witch hunt" driven by Representative Louise Slaughter, Democrat of NY, who requested the investigation.
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"She's on a witch-hunt, she's a despicable human being", Collins said of Slaughter.
Slaughter, who authored the 2012 STOCK Act which deals with lawmakers using special information for financial gain on the markets, filed charges against Collins to the OCE in response to a June story from The Hill. 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. He did not, the employee said, discuss any constituents affected or any legislation involving multiple sclerosis. Pursuant to House Rule XI, clause 3 (b)(8)(A) and Committee Rules 17A (b)(1)(A) and 17A (c)(1), the Chairwoman and Ranking Member jointly decided on August 28, 2017, to extend the Committee's review of the matter. "So in her report if they say did you invest in an IPO, a public IPO, the answer is no", Collins told reporters Thursday. That may be a violation of insider-trading laws and the Stock Act, which clarifies that those laws apply to members of Congress.
"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. "I clearly understand the optics, but there was nothing done that was wrong".