Bill would ban House members from serving on boards of publicly held companies

Bill would ban House members from serving on boards of publicly held companies
© Greg Nash

Two lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday to ban House members from serving as board members for publicly traded companies following the arrest of Rep. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsHouse bill would ban stock trading by members of Congress Former Rep. Chris Collins sentenced to 2 years in prison for insider trading GOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts MORE (R-N.Y.) for alleged insider trading.

The resolution from New York Reps. Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedHillicon Valley: Google bans Zoom from its work computers | Dem cautions White House against using surveillance to fight virus | Lawmakers push House leaders on remote voting Lawmakers outline proposals for virtual voting Infrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens MORE (R) and Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceHere are the lawmakers who have self-quarantined as a precaution Top Democrats demand answers on DHS plans to deploy elite agents to sanctuary cities Buttigieg plans NY fundraiser with Michael J. Fox MORE (D) would amend House rules to mirror a Senate provision banning lawmakers from sitting on the boards of “any publicly-held or publicly regulated corporation, financial institution, or business entity.”

“There should never be a doubt in the public’s mind to lead them to think their Representative could be corrupted or incriminated because of their stake or position in a private company,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “We owe the American people this fair assurance.”

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Collins was arrested Wednesday and charged with securities fraud, wire fraud and making false statements to federal agents related to his seat on the board of an Australian pharmaceutical company.

He was the only member of the House to serve as a board member for a public company, and did so as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the pharmaceutical industry.

Collins served as a board member for Innate Immunotherapeutics, a Sydney-based firm that tried to develop a drug to fight advanced multiple sclerosis. He was also Innate’s largest shareholder.

The three-term congressman is alleged to have shared confidential news that the drug failed clinical trials with his son, Cameron Collins, spurring a series of insider trades that saved his family and friends more than $750,000 in stock losses. Collins, who was unable to sell his own shares of Innate, reportedly lost up to $17 million when news of the failed trials was announced in June 2017.

“Congressman Collins — who by virtue of his office helps to write the laws of our nation — acted as if the law didn't apply to him,” said Geoff Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, at a Wednesday press conference.

Cameron Collins and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron’s fiancee, were also charged with securities fraud, wire fraud and making false statements to federal agents.

Collins, the first lawmaker to endorse President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Overnight Health Care: Trump steps up attack on WHO | Fauci says deaths could be lower than first projected | House panel warns federal stockpile of medical supplies depleted | Mnuchin, Schumer in talks over relief deal Trump says he'll look into small business loan program restricting casinos MORE, called the charges against him “baseless” Wednesday and said he would continue his re-election campaign.

“As I fight to clear my name, rest assured, I will continue to work hard for the people and constituents of the 27th Congressional District of New York, and I will remain on the ballot running for reelection this November,” he said at a brief press appearance, where he also promised he would be exonerated from all charges.

Collins represents a deeply Republican western New York district where Trump beat Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe two infectious diseases spreading across America Former Clinton staffers invited to celebrate Sanders dropping out: report Sanders exit leaves deep disappointment on left MORE by more than 24 points in the 2016 presidential election. But his arrest and indictment have energized Democrats seeking to flip the seat.