The House Ethics Committee said Thursday it will continue to look into New York GOP Rep. Chris Collins’ dealings with an Australian biotech company, but has not moved ahead with a full-scale investigation into the matter.
The Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent watchdog, had unanimously recommended that the Ethics Committee launch a full probe into Collins’ dealings with Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited, an Australian biotech company. Collins is on the board of the company and is its biggest stockholder, having invested at least $6 million in the firm.
Collins — who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing — has pushed the company’s stock to former HHS Secretary and one-time House colleague Tom Price, other lawmakers and officials in Buffalo, N.Y. Collins was once overheard bragging on the phone in the House Speaker’s Lobby about “how many millionaires I’ve made in Buffalo the past few months.” Price made more than $225,000 in his Innate stock trades, according to public records.
Both Price and Innate officials refused to comply with OCE’s probe. OCE lacks subpoena authority and cannot compel witnesses to testify or produce documents. The Ethics Committee, however, does have that power.
OCE looked into allegations that Collins got insider information on Innate’s stock, as well as an opportunity to purchase it at a discount. Collins also reportedly introduced legislation that could have benefited Innate.
The OCE investigators determined “there is a substantial reason to believe that Representative Collins shared material nonpublic information in the purchase of Innate stock, in violation of House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law.”
OCE also found that “there is a substantial reason to believe that Representative Collins took official actions or requested official actions that would assist a single entity in which he had a significant financial interest, in violation of House rules and standards of conduct.”
OCE, though, said Collins had not purchased Innate stock at a discounted rate.
According to OCE, “Representative Collins frequently updated Innate shareholders on the company’s activities, financial status, business strategies, and industry news. The OCE identified examples of the type of communications Representative Collins made to U.S. investors containing public and nonpublic information.”
Collins also spoke about an Innate drug during a committee hearing with a top NIH official in 2013 without disclosing his involvement with the company. Collins later discussed the drug with other NIH officials and “requested that an NIH researcher meet with Innate’s chief science officer,” according to OCE. By that time, NIH officials had been made aware of Collins’ ties to Innate.
Collins continues to insist he has done nothing wrong in his dealings with Innate.
“Throughout my tenure in Congress I have followed all rules and ethical guidelines when it comes to my personal investments. I was elected to Congress based upon my success in the private sector, and my willingness to use that experience every day to facilitate an environment that creates economic opportunity and jobs,” Collins said in statement. “I thank the House Ethics Committee for their meticulous review of this case and for the tough work they do to hold all Members of Congress accountable to the highest standards of conduct.”