Another Lawmaker Invested in Chris Collins’ Drug Company—and They Teamed Up on Its Behalf
Rep. Chris Collins filed two bills that would have benefited Innate Immunotherapeutics—and his colleague Rep. Billy Long was only lawmaker to co-sponsor both.
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The FBI arrested Rep. Christopher Collins (R-NY) on Wednesday for an alleged insider-trading scheme involving the biotechnology company Innate Immunotherapeutics. The government accuses him of passing inside information gleaned through his seat on the company’s board to his son, a major Innate shareholder, who sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in its stock just before news of a major drug-trial failure went public.
But Collins, who denies any criminal wrongdoing, isn’t the only one who risks being wrapped up in controversy surrounding the company.
As The Daily Beast reported last year, Collins authored four bills that would likely have benefited the company. Two of them, separate versions of the same bill introduced in the 114th and 115th Congresses, had just one co-sponsor: Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, which has oversight over the Food and Drug Administration. While no one has accused him of any legal wrongdoing, Long also held stock in Innate. Long signed on to both pieces of legislation the day they were introduced. The first was filed in December 2016, and didn’t make it out of subcommittee before the session ended.
Then in January, Long bought between $15,000 and $50,000 in Innate stock, apparently as part of a Fidelity retirement account. In July, Collins once again introduced his bill, which would have expedited FDA approvals for treatments such as Innate’s, and Long was once again an immediate co-sponsor.
Long’s office didn’t respond to questions about whether his Innate holdings might constitute a conflict of interest. A spokesperson would only say that the congressman “did not learn of Innate Immunotherapeutics through a colleague, but rather when it became a daily topic on the nightly news in January of 2017,” a timeline that suggests that Long, not a financial brokerage, made the decision to purchase Innate stock.
Most media coverage of Innate in January 2017 focused on Collins and former Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), then Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. He and Collins were both offered exclusive access to an early stock offering that bought them in below market rates. When interviewed by the Office of Congressional Ethics last year, Collins said he and Price often discussed Innate, including in conversations on the House floor.
Collins didn’t recall any specific conversations about Innate with Long. But he did say that he would tell everyone who would listen about the company. “I talked about it all the time,” he said. “‘Who in Congress have you talked with about Innate?” as Collins posed the question to himself. “The bigger question would be ‘Who haven’t I talked to?’”