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New York Rep. Christopher Collins indicted on insider trading charges



christopher collins

New York Republican Rep. Christopher Collins has been indicted on insider trading charges, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

“These charges are a reminder that this is a land of laws and that everyone stands before the bar of justice,” Geoffrey Berman, an attorney for the U.S. Southern District of New York, said during a press conference on Wednesday.

The indictment also names the congressman’s son, Cameron Collins, and Stephen Zarsky, the father of his son’s fiancée. The fraud counts relate to securities of an Australian biotechnology company called Innate Immunotherapeutics, where the 68-year-old congressman served on the board.

“Christopher Collins, the defendent, violated the duties he owed to Innate by passing material; nonpublic information regarding the Drug Trial results to his son, Cameron Collins, the defendent, so that [his son] could use that information to make timely trades in Innate stock and tip others,” the indictment states. “Cameron Collins traded on the inside information and passed it to Stephen Zarsky.”

Among the charges, the defendants are accused of multiple counts of securities fraud, along with one count of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count each of making false statements.

All three pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday afternoon.

Prosecutors allege that Collins passed along secrets to his son, Cameron, in June 2017. They say the son traded on the inside information and passed it to Zarsky. They added that Zarsky traded on it and tipped off at least three others.

According to the indictment, Collins specifically got early word that a drug the company developed to treat multiple sclerosis wasn’t performing well in a medical trial and passed on the tip to his son.

Prosecutors said the three avoided over $768,000 in losses by trading ahead of the public announcement of the failed drug trials.

The advocacy group Public Citizen filed a request for an investigation of Collins’ stock dealings with the Office of Congressional Ethics and the Securities and Exchange Commission in January of 2017.

The Republican congressman, who has served New York’s 27th District since 2013, surrendered to federal agents in Manhattan on Wednesday morning and is expected to appear in federal court in lower Manhattan later in the day.

Attorneys representing Collins released the following statement on Wednesday: “We will answer the charges filed against Congressman Collins in Court and will mount a vigorous defense to clear his good name. It is notable that even the government does not allege that Congressman Collins traded a single share of Innate Therapeutics stock. We are confident he will be completely vindicated and exonerated.”

In 2017, the House Ethics Committee probed the congressman at the behest of the late Rep. Louise Slaughter. She authored the STOCK Act, which barred lawmakers and aides from using propietary information to trade securities.

The Ethics Committee report on Collins was muddled. It did not punish Collins. But it did not exonerate him either.

When asked about the report by Fox News, Collins at the time called Slaughter “a despicable human being,” a rare moment of course language used by a U.S. congressman to describe a colleague. Collins disputed the findings and said he has “always followed ethics.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said on Wednesday that he was removing Collins from the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Ryan called insider trading “a clear violation of the public trust.” He said he’s moving against Collins even though a court will decide whether the lawmaker is guilty of the allegations.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that “the charges against Congressman Collins show the rampant culture of corruption and self-enrichment among Republicans in Washington.”

“The American people deserve better than the GOP’s corruption, cronyism, and incompetence,” she added.

Collins has a track record of publicly backing Trump, including being one of the first sitting members of Congress to endorse his candidacy. Most recently, Collins called for an end to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into campaign collusion and blamed the Obama administration for failing to push back on Russia.

“I share President Trump’s continued frustration as the left continues to try to nullify the 2016 Presidential election with claims of Russian interference,” he said.

Collins ran unopposed in the Republican primary and holds what’s largely considered a safe Republican seat in a state that went to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. He’s being challenged by Democrat Nate McMurray, a Grand Island, New York, town supervisor.


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Cynthia Nixon Loses New York Primary to Incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo




cynthia nixon

Cynthia Nixon’s gubernatorial primary bid against incumbent Andrew Cuomo has come to an end.

Going into the primaries, Cuomo had a greater amount of support from the Democratic party, as well as greater financial resources than Nixon, and pre-primary polls suggested the incumbent governor had more support from New York voters.

The Associated Press called the race for Cuomo based on projected totals at 9:30 p.m. ET. With nearly 50 percent of total votes counted, the 60-year-old career politician held an insurmountable 66.3 percent lead over Nixon’s 33.7 percent.

Following the defeat, Nixon took to Twitter to thank her followers and fans for their support. “Thank you all for believing and fighting and leaving it all on the field,” she wrote. “We started something here in New York, and it doesn’t end today. This is just the beginning. And I know that together, we will win this fight.”

Nixon first announced that she would be running for governor, and challenging the two-term establishment Democrat, in March, when she released a video explaining her motivation and inspiration to throw her hat in the political ring.

“New York is my home. I’ve never lived anywhere else. When I grew up here it was just my mom and me in a one-bedroom, fifth floor walk-up. New York is where I was raised and where I am raising my kids. I’m a proud public school graduate and a prouder public school parent. I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today,” the 51-year-old actress said at the time. “Our leaders are letting us down. We are now the most unequal state in the entire country. With both incredible wealth and extreme poverty… How did we let this happen?”

Nixon first announced that she would be running for governor, and challenging the two-term establishment Democrat, in March, when she released a video explaining her motivation and inspiration to throw her hat in the political ring.

“New York is my home. I’ve never lived anywhere else. When I grew up here it was just my mom and me in a one-bedroom, fifth floor walk-up. New York is where I was raised and where I am raising my kids. I’m a proud public school graduate and a prouder public school parent. I was given chances I just don’t see for most of New York’s kids today,” the 51-year-old actress said at the time. “Our leaders are letting us down. We are now the most unequal state in the entire country. With both incredible wealth and extreme poverty… How did we let this happen?”

ET’s Nischelle Turner was with Parker on Thursday morning, hours before the results of the primary were determined — at the launch of her new brick-and-mortar shoe store, SJP By Sarah Jessica Parker, in the Seaport District of New York City — and the actress-turned-fashion mogul said she was standing by her friend.

“We had to be [at the store opening] super early but we’re we’re gonna go [cast our votes] when I finish,” shared Parker, who said she’d been texting with Nixon the night before the primaries kicked off.


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How the outcome of the AG primary could affect tech in NY




attorney general eric schneiderman

This week, New York Democrats will line up to vote for one of four candidates vying to replace state Attorney General Barbara Underwood. In doing so, they’ll also decide who will take on the responsibility of regulating the state’s technology industry – a sector that has become an integral part of New York’s economy and increasingly dependent on state policy makers.

Underwood, who was appointed as former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s replacement after he stepped down in May, has been an advocate for net neutrality on a national level, but has stayed relatively quiet on tech companies’ relationship with New York officials. Schneiderman, on the other hand, had a more complicated relationship with the tech community, taking on sports betting disruptors FanDuel and DraftKings and home-sharing service Airbnb during his tenure.

Now more than ever, the local tech community likely wants an attorney general who will have a proper understanding of the sector and the issues that affect it. Perhaps more importantly, the industry would want the next attorney general to be unaffected by the preferences of groups with roots in the city, and those groups’ relationships with city officials (see: the recent cap on the number of cars licensed by ride-hailing companies like Uber that have disrupted the well-connected New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission).

So how does each Democratic attorney general candidate fare in both categories? Considering the limited conversation around tech during the campaign, it’s hard to say definitively. But their past lives and their responses to a room full of NYC techies during a panel hosted by Axios, Tech:NYC and WeWork back in August provide some details.

Two of the four candidates have actually worked for a technology company. One of them, Leecia Eve, is a lobbyist for Verizon and on leave from her post as its vice president of government affairs for the tri-state region. She said during the panel that she understands “the role of technology better by far than (her) opponents,” alluding to her executive role at a telecommunications company, but her background also puts her in a complicated position. She, like all three of her opponents, presents herself as a strong proponent of net neutrality. “My company, Verizon, has never engaged and never will engage in paid prioritization,” she said at the WeWork panel in August. “No blocking. No throttling.” But Verizon has been called out for that exact offense – and against California firefighters who thought they had unlimited data, no less. Democratic senators in Washington have since asked the FCC to investigate, and while Eve isn’t directly responsible, it does speak to the complicated nature of her loyalties.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, meanwhile, was the chief operating officer of a New York-based software startup called Kiodex, Inc. from 2000 to 2003. He’s able to speak fluently about the importance of H1B visas to tech companies and of innovation to New York City, spoke most vehemently against the Uber cap during the panel, and told eager attendees more than once that the attorney general should be their partner. He displayed a strong understanding of the issues associated with trying to marry emerging tech with an established (sometimes antiquated) governing system.

“I’ve spent 10 years practicing law in this city … but it doesn’t mean you can’t stand on your own two feet and answer a simple question like whether you support the cap or not,” Maloney said. “Because what’s really going on with that question is whether you support the old school political bosses and political interests in this city or whether you support innovation and you are willing to deal with the disruptions and manage them as you go, because if you put an artificial cap on it, you are going to retard the creative atmosphere that all of you are working so hard to create it. And I’m opposed to it.”

On the other hand, it would be risky to assume that the congressman would prioritize these issues should he win, completely unaffected by the needs or wants of outside groups. “Maloney my guess is probably personally the most pro-tech of that group, so that’s good,” political strategist and venture capitalist Bradley Tusk told City & State. “But you know, he’s also very political.”

With the exception of net neutrality, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James has been perhaps the least committal of the candidates on tech issues. She said she thinks Uber raises a lot of social justice issues but “disagree(s) with the approach of the vote (and) think(s) there should have been more analysis.”

On data privacy, she said she believes in government access to open data to address social justice issues in New York, says it’s important that business disclose what data they gather, and that personal data not be abused and “is clearly protected.”

If Maloney appeared to be the most informed candidate, James came away looking as the least. And aside from presiding over the New York City Council during votes like the one on the Uber cap, her background has little to no connection to the tech industry.

Zephyr Teachout was the only one of the four candidates has explicitly come out in support of the Uber cap bill. “I support the Uber cap bill,” she said on Twitter. “We need to reduce congestion, break up concentrated power, and support drivers. Too many drivers have been squeezed out by big tech companies that steal all the money – and the dignity – from drivers.”

She avoided weighing in on the Uber cap during the WeWork panel, although she was asked many times to take a side. Instead, she repeated the need for an AG to prioritize, outlining her own priorities as being voting, corruption, campaign finance reform and mass incarceration – basically, nothing tech-related. She spoke out forcefully against monopolies too, and expressed her concern about the concentration of tech in New York City.

But when it comes to enforcing the law, Teachout – an associate law professor at Fordham Law School who has never been in elected office or had any company affiliation – gives the tech community reason to think she would regulate fairly. An added advantage? Tim Wu, the man who coined the term “net neutrality,” was her running mate during her 2014 gubernatorial campaign, and her allegiance to net neutrality doesn’t stop there. She told the panel attendees that she “did a crowd-sourced brief defending the open internet” – bonus points for tech lingo.


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De Blasio says Cuomo lacks ‘a positive vision for New York City’




de blasio

It’s a Democratic demolition derby.

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday tore into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of New York City’s needs, a day after the governor faced off against his primary rival Cynthia Nixon in a televised debate.

In the face-off with the left-wing actress-activist, Cuomo had been asked about two issues that have raised tensions with the mayor: funding the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the increased deployment of state police officers to the city.

In the debate, the governor repeated previous claims that the city in fact owns the subway system and bears responsibility for it—the former is legally true, though the MTA is a gubernatorially-controlled entity and manages the system—and that his officers are simply in place to catch those attempting to evade tolls at state and MTA-controlled bridges and tunnels.

The mayor, however, argued that governor has failed to take the city’s best interests into account when setting policy, despite it containing 43% of New York’s population. He alluded to several episodes in their ongoing feud, including the governor’s sudden decision to shut down the subways system ahead of an anticipated snowstorm, an action taken without notifying City Hall.

“I think it’s been part of a pattern of the governor not having a positive vision for New York City and how to work with New York City,” the mayor complained. “No other state in America has a single city with a higher percentage of its population than we have in New York City, in New York state. We’re almost half of the state’s population. Why not start with a positive vision for how to help New York City, for how to work with me as mayor and my administration, and how to get things done for New York City? That’s not what I get. I get sudden announcements, and plans that are often made without taking New York City’s needs into account.”

De Blasio continued to withhold any endorsement in the primary between Cuomo and Nixon, the latter of whom supported him for office in 2013 and hired consultants tied to his campaign. But he praised her performance in the bitter, carping exchange with the incumbent, and slapped at the governor’s “tone.”

“By the standard of how much experience each one had debating, I would say she won, because her performance far exceeded expectations. I would also say she offered some very powerful views that I thought resonated. And I was surprised at some of the governor’s tone,” he said. “His tone was negative and I didn’t understand how someone who is doing well in the polls and has $30 million [in campaign contributions] and is an incumbent would take such a negative tone.”

In a response Thursday afternoon, Cuomo’s team slapped at the governor’s rival and former ally, whom the governor professed to “love” at the debate. In particular, the Cuomo camp highlighted internal emails reporters forced City Hall to release that showed Nixon used her access to de Blasio to pass along complaints about helicopter traffic over Shakespeare in the Park performances and a message from the owner of a Manhattan tea house patronized by “Sex and the City” co-star Sarah Jessica Parker.

“As evidenced by the way he approaches governing, we’re not surprised that the mayor thinks Ms. Nixon has the experience and qualifications to be chief executive,” said campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith, whose romance with former Gov. Eliot Spitzer derailed her appointment to a job in de Blasio’s administration. “Clearly, he and Ms. Nixon—one of his large donors—have a very close relationship, as evidenced by the access she has had to him as mayor, which allowed her to call in favors for her wealthy friends and co-stars. Nice to see she can still call in those favors with him today.”


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