Trump pardons Chris Collins, former congressman imprisoned for biotech insider trading scandal
Just two months into a 26-month prison sentence for insider trading, former congressman Chris Collins has been pardoned.
Collins is one of 15 people Donald Trump has pardoned in one of his last exercises of presidential power. A House representative of 7 years and the first sitting federal politician to endorse Trump’s bid for president back in 2016, he was granted a full pardon “at the request of many Members of Congress,” according to the White House.
The scandal that led to his resignation and landed him in prison revolved around an Australian biotech named Innate Immunotherapeutics, which had a lead drug for multiple sclerosis. Not only did Collins’ family become the second largest shareholder and a board member, he was also an avid promoter of its stock, drawing investments from neighbors, friends as well as fellow members of Congress.
While his overzealous proselytism prompted a House ethics investigation in May 2017, he was ultimately charged for passing on the insider information — relayed by the Innate CEO to the board in June — that the company’s lead drug had failed a key trial.
At an amply photographed picnic event on the White House lawn, Collins called his son, Cameron Collins, to tip him off so that he could sell his shares before the inevitable stock implosion once the public finds out.
It helped the younger Collins avoid $570,900 in losses. He also told his father-in-law and six other stockholder friends to sell, retaining around hundreds of thousands of dollars in total.
When questioned by the FBI, the congressman later admitted, he lied.
“You had a duty to meet and you betrayed that duty,” US Judge Vernon Broderick of the Southern District of New York said to Collins at sentencing.
Broderick later decided that his son deserved a more lenient sentence, which amounted to five years probation including six months home confinement and 500 hours of community service and a $150,000 fine.
Trump, though, chose to note highlight Collins’ “early career as a successful businessman and entrepreneur” and public service in a statement of clemency:
During his tenure in Congress, Mr. Collins was known for his particular focus on the wellbeing of small businesses, agriculture, and sciences.
Collins could be released in time for Christmas, two lawyers told Buffalo News.