Finance

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

Two lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday to ban House members from serving as board members for publicly traded companies following the arrest of Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) for alleged insider trading.

The resolution from New York Reps. Tom Reed (R) and Kathleen Rice (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."

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 Trump, 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 Clinton by more than 24 points in the 2016 presidential election. But his arrest and indictment have energized Democrats seeking to flip the seat.

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