Rep. Chris Collins’ Australian Stock Bet Looks Bleaker

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) owns owns almost 38 million shares of Innate Immunotherapeutics. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The little Australian biotech firm that once counted U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price as a shareholder — a link that roiled his Senate confirmation hearing last winter — is facing closure, the company has told shareholders.

Innate Immunotherapeutics will probably shut down in the coming months, CEO Simon Wilkinson said at the company’s annual meeting Wednesday, The Australian, a news outlet, reported.

Price disclosed he sold shares after joining HHS — and reportedly made a nice profit — but Innate’s announcement brings further embarrassment for Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), Innate’s largest shareholder. Collins has said he promoted the company’s investment potential to friends, relatives and campaign donors. One was Price, a congressman from Georgia before he joined President Donald Trump’s Cabinet.

Collins’ office declined to comment on Wilkinson’s comments Thursday.

The Buffalo-area representative owns almost 38 million shares, nearly 17 percent, of the company. His stake lost about $17 million in value in June after Innate disclosed that its only product — a drug to treat severe multiple sclerosis — had failed in clinical trials conducted in Australia and New Zealand.

After that announcement, Innate shares traded on the Australian stock exchange plunged 90 percent to about 3 cents a share, where they remain.

The Australian’s story quoted Innate’s chairman, Michael Quinn, as saying that Collins had been a “straight up-and-down investor” who had never sold any of his shares in the company. Collins’ political financial disclosures show he was worth more than $40 million before Innate shares plummeted, Politico reported in June.

The House Committee on Ethics said this week it will investigate Collins’ involvement with Innate and release a decision about whether he violated ethics rules by Oct. 12. Collins has previously denied wrongdoing.

The case was referred to the committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent body that investigates possible ethics violations by members of Congress or their staff.

That office’s inquiry was sparked by complaints it received from Collins’ constituents, government watchdog groups and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), The Buffalo News has reported. Critics have raised concerns that Collins and Price benefited from legislation that could have helped Innate.

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