Congress

Rep. Chris Collins, son get some securities fraud charges dropped

New York Republican still faces decades of potential jail time

New York Rep. Chris Collins had three securities fraud charges dropped, but still faces decades in prison. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York is dropping three securities fraud charges against Rep. Chris Collins and two against his son, Cameron, in order to avoid unnecessary pretrial litigation that could delay the case, according to a court filing submitted Tuesday.

The government’s decision still leaves both father and son facing a tsunami of remaining charges stemming from the New York Republican congressman’s alleged role in an insider trading scheme involving an Australian biotechnology company, Innate Immunotherapeutics. Chris Collins served on the company’s board of directors and allegedly gave material, nonpublic information to his son about confidential drug test results so that his son, and others, could trade on the news before the results were announced to the public. They were able to avoid approximately $768,000 in losses, according to the Justice Department.

The congressman still faces eight charges, including conspiracy to commit securities fraud, securities fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and making false statements. He could face decades in prison if convicted on all charges. The younger Collins also faces serious jail time and nine total charges.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York noted in his filing, which was first reported by the Buffalo News, that a grand jury returned an indictment Tuesday that supersedes the congressman’s original indictment on Aug. 8 last year. 

There are two key areas in which the new indictment differs from the original, Berman wrote to Judge Vernon Broderick. One, it removes references to conduct Chris Collins contends, or could contend, is protected by the speech or debate clause. Two, it narrows the scope of the conspiracy charged in one count and reduces the total securities fraud charges against Collins and his son.

Collins’ actions as a corporate director have prompted Congress to make changes to its own laws. A new clause in the Code of Official Conduct, scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, will prohibit members, delegates, resident commissioners, officers or employees in the House from serving as an officer or director of any public company.

A working group of the House Ethics Committee has been charged with crafting regulations on outside position limits for employees of the chamber. A House Ethics investigative subcommittee inquiry into Collins’ actions is open while it awaits the conclusion of his federal district court trial slated for February 2020 in New York City.

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