Chris Collins touted business success before insider trading charges

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In a Daily Beast report from April 2017, Simon Wilkinson, CEO of the company that would become Innate, said he met Collins in 2005 while looking for investors in the U.S. Collins invested $5 million in the company, the publication reported.

As late as April 2016, Collins was by far the top stakeholder in the company, holding more than 17 percent of the company’s nearly 200 million shares, according to a research note from Australia’s Gordon Capital. Collins still held about 16.8 percent of the company’s stock this week, according to the indictment unveiled on Wednesday.

“The Company and its directors/officers (excepting Mr. Collins) are not under investigation,” Innate said in a statement. The company also noted that “it has cooperated fully with requests for information made to it” by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The agency filed a civil complaint against the same three defendants in the federal criminal case, and added related charges against Cameron Collins’ fiancee, Lauren Zarsky, and her mother, Dorothy Zarsky.

Wilkinson told CNBC in an email that “we consider this to be a private matter involving Mr. Collins and we will not be putting out further commentary at this time.”

In January 2017, Innate was found to have offered both Collins and Georgia Rep. Tom Price, who would go on to be President Donald Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, a discounted stock price in order to help fund the trial for its multiple sclerosis drug. That ultimately wound up a failure, and the company sold both Price and Collins nearly $1 million in discounted shares, according to an investigation from Kaiser Health News.

During his confirmation hearings in January 2017, Price was grilled by lawmakers about a tip on the company he allegedly received from Collins. Price resigned last September, following an embarrassing series of news stories detailing his use of pricey commercial and charter jet travel during his brief tenure as HHS chief.

Collins, too, felt the political consequences for his dealings with Innate long before he was charged. Revelations about the biotech company sparked a watchdog investigation from the Office of Congressional Ethics, which handed the reins of that probe to the House Ethics Committee in October 2017. The OCE found “substantial reason to believe” that Collins violated congressional rules.

In the wake of Collins’ indictment and arrest Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the New York lawmaker would be booted from the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Just this week, Collins insisted he would still stand for re-election during the midterms, where the GOP is already facing stiff headwinds. “Rest assured that I will continue to work hard for the people of the 27th Congressional District of New York while remaining on the ballot for reelection this November,” he said in a statement to supporters.

Less than four days later, he changed his mind. “After extensive discussions with my family and my friends over the last few days, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the constituents of NY-27, the Republican Party and President Trump’s agenda for me to suspend my campaign for re-election to Congress,” Collins said.

Now that he’s given up on holding his seat in Congress, the entrepreneur-cum-lawmaker who once allegedly boasted in a phone call about “how many millionaires I’ve made in Buffalo” must now work to salvage his business reputation, and potentially his freedom.



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