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House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday booted Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY, from the House Energy and Commerce Committee pending the outcome of a probe of allegations of insider trading on a drug-company stock.
Ryan, R-Wisc., announced Collins' removal shortly before federal prosecutors in New York City were set to discuss an indictment against Collins, who was arrested earlier Wednesday on charges of insider trading and of lying to federal investigators in a bid to cover up his action.
"While his guilt or innocence is a question for the courts to settle, the allegations against Rep. Collins demand a prompt and thorough investigation by the House Ethics Committee," Ryan said in a prepared statement.
"Insider trading is a clear violation of the public trust. Until this matter is settled, Rep. Collins will no longer be serving on the House Energy and Commerce Committee."
Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a press conference that Collins, who is responsible for writing the nation's laws, "acted as if the law didn't apply to him."
Collins "placed his family and friends above the public good," Berman said.
Collins, 68, pleaded not guilty Wednesday during an appearance at federal court in Manhattan, where a judge ordered him released on $500,000 bond, and told him to come back for a hearing in the case on Oct. 11.
An indictment unsealed Wednesday accuses Collins of disclosing in June 2017 non-public information about the stock of Australian biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics, on which Collins served as a board member, to his son, Cameron Collins.
The information, which related to a failed drug trial conducted by the company, helped Cameron Collins "make timely trades in Innate stock and tip others."
Cameron Collins, who is also charged in the case, allegedly traded on the tip and alerted Stephen Zarsky, the father of his fiancee about the information, according to the indictment. While Rep. Collins did not make any trades on the information, his son, Zarsky, Zarsky's wife Dorothy Zarsky and Cameron Collins' fiancee, Lauren Zarsky, all allegedly did make trades on it.
Collins was the first member of Congress to endorse the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. After Trump won, Collins was appointed to the executive committee of Trump's transition team.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said, "The charges against Congressman Collins show the rampant culture of corruption and self-enrichment among Republicans in Washington today. The Ethics Committee must accelerate its own investigation into Congressman Collins' illegal abuse of the public trust."
""The American people deserve better than the GOP's corruption, cronyism, and incompetence. Delivering A Better Deal for hard-working families means enacting tougher ethics laws to crack down on the self-dealing that has metastasized under the GOP Congress and the Trump Administration," said Pelosi.
In addition to the criminal complaint against Collins, his son and Zarsky, the three men also were hit with a civil complaint Wednesday by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The SEC announced related charges, which have been settled, with Zarsky's daughter, Lauren Zarsky, a certified public accountant engaged to Cameron Collins, and Zasky's wife Dorothy Zarsky.
"Lauren Zarsky agreed to disgorge her ill-gotten gains of $19,440, plus prejudgment interest of $839, and pay a civil penalty of $19,440," the SEC said in a press release.
"Dorothy Zarsky agreed to disgorge her ill-gotten gains of $22,600, plus prejudgment interest of $975, and pay a civil penalty of $22,600."
"Lauren Zarsky, a CPA, has also agreed to be suspended from appearing or practicing before the SEC as an accountant, which includes not participating in the financial reporting or audits of public companies," the agency said.