Rep. Chris Collins, accused of insider trading, says he’ll stay on ballot for re-election

Rep. Christopher Collins, R-N.Y., who was indicted on insider trading charges Wednesday, said he believes that charges filed against him “are meritless” and he will remain on the ballot for re-election.

“I will mount a vigorous defense in court to clear my name,” Collins told reporters Wednesday night in response to the indictment prosecutors filed against him earlier in the day. “I look forward to being fully vindicated and exonerated, ending any and all questions relating to my affiliation with Innate [Immunotherapeutics].”

The indictment charges 68-year-old Collins; his son, Cameron Collins; and the father of his son’s fiancée, Stephen Zarsky, with conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud and making false statements to the FBI.

All three pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday afternoon.

The fraud counts relate to securities of an Australian biotechnology company called Innate Immunotherapeutics, where Collins served on the board.

“Many have speculated about my relationship with Innate,” the congressman told reporters. “Here are the simple facts: My connections with the company are well known. I believe I acted properly and within the law at all times with regard to my affiliation with Innate.

“Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have followed all rules and all ethical guidelines when it comes to my personal investments, including those with Innate,” Collins added.

Innate “wishes to advise that it has cooperated fully with requests for information made to it by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC),” the company said in a statement, adding that both Innate “and its directors/officers (excepting Mr. Collins) are not under investigation. The Company considers the ongoing investigation to be a private matter to Mr. Collins.”

Prosecutors allege that Collins passed along secrets to Cameron in June 2017, and that Cameron then traded on the inside information and passed it on to Zarsky, who allegedly traded on it and tipped off at least three others.

According to the indictment, Collins specifically got early word that a drug the company developed to treat multiple sclerosis wasn’t performing well in a medical trial and passed on the tip to his son.

Prosecutors said the three avoided over $768,000 in losses by trading ahead of the public announcement of the failed drug trials.

The charges, according to Geoffrey Berman, an attorney for the U.S. Southern District of New York, “are a reminder that this is a land of laws and that everyone stands before the bar of justice.”

The advocacy group Public Citizen filed a request for an investigation of Collins’ stock dealings with the Office of Congressional Ethics and the Securities and Exchange Commission in January 2017.

Collins, who has served New York’s 27th District since 2013, ran unopposed in the Republican primary and holds what’s largely considered a safe Republican seat in a state that went to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. He’s being challenged by Democrat Nate McMurray, a Grand Island, New York, town supervisor.

Lissa Kaplan, Andrew O’Reilly and Tamara Gitt contributed to this report.

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