NEW YORK – Innate Immunotherapeutics, the Australian biotech firm that Rep. Chris Collins once compared to one of his children, appears to have disowned him amid the investigation that led to the lawmaker's indictment on securities fraud charges.
The Sydney-based company released a terse statement late Wednesday – Thursday morning in Australia – in which it tried to distance itself from the Clarence Republican.
"The company wishes to advise that it has cooperated fully with requests for information made to it by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission," Innate said in the statement. "The company and it directors/officers (excepting Mr. Collins) are not under investigation. The company considers the ongoing investigation to be a private matter to Mr. Collins."
Collins served on Innate's board of directors until early this year, and Innate's statement implied that his departure may not have been voluntary.
"Mr. Collins was retired as a director of Innate Immunotherapeutics in early May of this year," the statement said. "Mr. Collins is no longer involved with the governance of the company."
The company also took issue with reporting that said Collins and certain others were able to buy Innate stock "on privileged terms" when it issued new shares in recent years. But Innate then went on to admit that Collins and those other insiders enjoyed a discount on those shares.
"As is typical for a rights issue in Australia, the issue price was at a discount to market and fully disclosed as such," the company's statement said.
Collins, long Innate's largest shareholder, was charged Wednesday with securities fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy and lying to a federal agent.
According to an indictment filed in federal court in Manhattan, Innate's CEO emailed Collins last June to tell him that the company's key product – a supposed treatment for secondary progressive multiple sclerosis – had failed in clinical trials.
Collins, who was at a White House picnic at the time, then allegedly called his son Cameron to tell him the news. Cameron Collins then started selling his Innate shares before the bad news was made public, according to prosecutors, and then spread the news to others who sold their shares. Cameron Collins and his fiancee's father, Stephen Zarsky, also face the same charges Collins faces.
A longtime Buffalo-area businessman and former Erie County executive serving his third term in Congress, Collins denied all the charges and vowed to run for re-election this fall in New York's 27th Congressional district, which links the Buffalo and Rochester suburbs via the rural areas in between.