Congressman may have broken law with biotech he held, watchdog says

Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., speaks at the Republican National Convention last year.

A watchdog on Thursday said Rep. Chris Collins may have broken federal law when he took actions to help a biotech in which he held a big stake.

The Office of Congressional Ethics said that Collins, a Republican from New York, may have shared material, nonpublic information in Australia’s Innate Immunotherapeutics IIL, +6.90% INNMF, +4.09%  and that he may have purchased discounted stock, not offered to the public, because he was a member of the House of Representatives.

The watchdog also said that Collins requested that an employee of the National Institutes of Health discuss clinical trial designs with Innate employees. If he took or requested official actions that would assist a single entity in which he held a significant financial interest, he may have violated House rules.

The House Ethics Committee said it was extending a review into the matter.

In a letter, Collins’ lawyer said that the information the congressman shared was public, and further, that the information wasn’t material anyway. The ethics office also didn’t make any showing that either Collins or any of the recipients of the three “shareholder updates” purchased or sold Innate stock as a result of the information, his lawyer said.

As far as the meeting, Collins’ lawyer said the discussion between an NIH doctor and Innate’s chief scientific officer was “precisely in line with the public interest mission of NIH” and typical of the frequent meetings it holds.

The company’s stock plunged in June after a midstage clinical trial miss.

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