In a development celebrated by Washington D.C. ethics watchdogs, Republican Rep. Chris Collins (N.Y.)—President Donald Trump's first congressional supporter—on Wednesday was arrested by the FBI and indicted on insider trading charges for actions that may have taken place while he was on the White House lawn.
Noting that ethics groups have called for investigations into Collins for more than a year, Public Citizen tweeted that the case highlights how members of Congress "sit in unique positions of power to manipulate the market for personal gain."
We called for an investigation into Collins over a year ago.
This scandal drives home that MOCs sit in unique positions of power to manipulate the market for personal gain – be it insider trading or promoting policies that affect their own fortunes. https://t.co/RzQ0nUv6P0
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) August 8, 2018
After Trump announced his presidential campaign in 2015, Collins was the very first member of Congress to endorse him and has remained one of his most loyal supporters on Capitol Hill:
and that he seconded Trump's nomination at the convention; and that he passed along the insider info *from the White House lawn*
— George Zornick (@gzornick) August 8, 2018
Norm Eisen, chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), remarked, "I predict he will be far from the last person in Trump's orbit to get hit with criminal charges."
Eisen described the news as "welcome but not surprising," pointing out that in March of 2017, CREW had raised concerns about several GOP congressmen—including Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), who went on to serve as the Trump administration's first Secretary of Health and Human Services—investing in Innate Immunotherapeutics.
Collins served on the Australian biomedical firm's board and is one of its biggest shareholders. Innate Immunotherapeutics is the focus of the federal case (pdf) for which Collins as well as his son Cameron Collins, and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron Collins' fiancée, are now facing charges.
As NBC News outlined:
According to a grand jury's indictment, Collins in June 2017 passed along material that was nonpublic regarding the results of a drug trial—meant to treat a form of multiple sclerosis—so his son "could use that information to make timely trades in Innate stock and tip others."
The drug trial had failed—and Innate's stock would eventually tumble by 92 percent.
The defendants ultimately managed to avoid more than $768,000 in losses they would have otherwise incurred if they had sold their stock in the company after the drug trial results became public, prosecutors allege.
The charges follow a review by the Office of Congressional Ethics last year, which concluded that Collins "may have shared material nonpublic information in the purchase of Innate stock," and that he "may have also purchased discounted Innate stock that was not available to the public and that was offered to him based on his status as a Member of the House of Representatives."
SDNY complaint against Collins alleges he was at the White House, attending the Congressional picnic, when he conducted some of the activity that led to the insider trading charges: pic.twitter.com/4jQ4nR9TVx
— erica orden (@eorden) August 8, 2018
Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, went over the details of the case against Collins at a press conference Wednesday, and declared, "These charges are reminder that we are a nation of laws and that everybody stands equal before the bar of justice."
Prosecutors are detailing the indictment of New York Rep. Chris Collins and his son for insider trading charges. "These charges are reminder that we are a nation of laws and that everybody stands equal before the bar of justice." https://t.co/qBtWNjDfvy pic.twitter.com/6JvCWPOJZH
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 8, 2018
Following the indictments, Politico's Jake Sherman on Wednesday tweeted that in January of 2017, he had overheard Collins "talking loudly into a phone just off the House floor, bragging about how many 'millionaires I've made in Buffalo,'" by sharing a stock tip.
Preview of today’s PM Playbook ... what I overheard Chris Collins saying in the capitol in January 2017. pic.twitter.com/xwMiDcBKRc
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) August 8, 2018
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday that "the allegations against Rep. Collins demand a prompt and thorough investigation by the House Ethics Committee" and dismissed the congressman from the House Energy and Commerce Committee "until this matter is settled."