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Questions surround Chris Collins' stock trading

Posted at 6:23 PM, Jan 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-18 18:23:53-05

Congressman Chris Collins is denying any wrongdoing after reports surfaced of 'suspicious' stock dealings revolving around a small company based in Australia that develops experimental drugs.

Collins is a board member at Innate Immunotherapeutics and, according to the Buffalo News, is the company's largest shareholder, owning 17 percent of its shares.  The Congressman has been an investor in the company for 15 years, but he reportedly made another large investment last August.

Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services is Congressman Tom Price.  He also made a large investment in Innate Immunotherapeutics after "learning of the company" from Collins.

Since then, the company's stock price has tripled.  During that time, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act--a piece of legislation that Collins helped craft.  It was designed, in part, to help speed up the FDA approval process for experimental drugs.

Price was grilled by lawmakers about his connection to Collins and these trades at his confirmation hearing Tuesday.  He denied making any stock purchases based on advice from Collins.

"What I believe I said to you was, 'I learned of the company from Congressman Collins'," he said.

Christian Tiu is a finance professor at the University at Buffalo's School of Management.  He said there needs to be proof of using non-public information to make stock purchases to indicate insider trading.

"Just the sheer fact that somebody basically was part of legislation that would benefit a particular company, but didn't necessarily have advance knowledge that that legislation would pass, I don't think that's grounds enough," he explained.

Here is the full statement from Michael McAdams, a spokesperson for Congressman Collins:

“Congressman Collins’ relationship with Innate Immunotherapeutics dates back more than 15 years. Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis is one of the most debilitating diseases in the world and Congressman Collins saw its deadly impact first hand as it affected a close family member. As of now, it has no cure and no relief of symptoms.  He is very proud of the progress the company has made over the years and hopeful it will develop a potentially life-saving treatment for the millions of individuals suffering from Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.”

“During his more than 15 year relationship with Innate Immunotherapeutics, Congressman Collins has had thousands of conversations about the debilitating impact of Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and the need to help the millions of people suffering from this disease. Along the way, he has spoken with hundreds of people, Dr. Price was one of those individuals, as he stated today during his testimony.”

“It’s unfortunate Sen. Murray launched a partisan attack insinuating something nefarious occurred. Congressman Collins has never disclosed any nonpublic or improper information related to Innate Immunotherapeutics and has followed all ethical and legal standards required by the House of Representatives during his time in office.”