Speed Reads

fraud on the lawn

GOP Rep. Chris Collins allegedly engaged in insider trading from the White House lawn

While his fellow members of Congress were enjoying carousel rides on the White House lawn, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) was apparently learning the company he'd invested millions in was about to fail.

The congressman and longtime President Trump fan was a top shareholder in Innate Immunotherapeutics, and he lost $17 million when it was revealed the Australian biotech company's star drug didn't pass clinical trials. But as an Innate board member, Collins learned about the failure before it went public — and told his son to sell his shares before he suffered similar losses, court filings released Wednesday allege. And it all happened while Collins was at the annual White House congressional picnic.

When Collins got an email revealing Innate's hallmark multiple sclerosis drug was a bust, he responded, "Wow. Makes no sense," to the company's CEO — apparently from a picnic table on the White House's South Lawn. Collins persistently phoned Cameron a minute later and, after six missed connections, they had a six-minute conversation, per the indictment. Cameron sold about 16,508 shares of Innate stock early the next morning, and sold more than a million more shares over the following days, avoiding approximately $570,900 in losses.

On Wednesday, unsealed court filings showed Collins was arrested on charges of securities fraud and lying to the FBI in relation to his Innate ties. Collins' son Cameron Collins and Cameron's fiancée's father were arrested as well, in part because of Collins' mid-picnic phone call. All three have since pleaded not guilty to the charges.

It looks like Collins enjoyed his freshly grilled hot dog with a nice topping of fraud.