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by | Sep 7, 2018

Video 1

New York Congressman Chris Collins Indicted on Insider Trading Charges

According to the article, Representative Christopher Collins of New York has been charged with insider trading. He is accused of using inside information about a biotechnology company to help his son make illicit stock trades. The charges were announced and the indictment was unsealed in New York City recently. The indictment charges Collins, the congressman’s son and the father of his son’s fiancée with conspiracy, wire fraud and other counts.

Collins and his co-defendants were arraigned in New York City this afternoon. They each pleaded not guilty and were released on a $500,000 bond. They are due back in court in October.

Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, outlined the case against Collins at a press conference recently. Berman was appointed interim United States attorney in January, and appointed as attorney by judges of the Federal District Court in Manhattan in April. He was formerly employed by the law firm Greenberg Traurig.

“He placed his family and friends above the public good,” Berman said about Collins. “Congressman Collins, who by virtue of his office helps to write the laws of our nation, acted as if the law did not apply to him.”

The indictment of Collins comes a few months before the November midterm elections, when he will be facing Nathan McMurray. Berman denied that the upcoming election would affect the case against Collins. “Politics does not enter into our decision-making in charging a case,” Berman told reporters. “We are months away from the election, and the concerns do not apply.”

Collins, his son and his fiancée’s father are additionally charged with lying to federal agents about allegations of insider trading. The Securities and Exchange Commission is also seeking to prohibit Collins from serving as an officer or director of a public company.

After the indictment was announced, House Speaker Paul Ryan removed Collins from the United States House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee while the matter is pending.

“While his guilt or innocence is a question for the courts to settle, the allegations against Representative Collins demand a prompt and thorough investigation by the House Ethics Committee,” Ryan said in a statement. “Insider trading is a clear violation of the public trust. Until this matter is settled, Representative Collins will no longer be serving on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.”

According to the indictment, the defendants tried to get early word on the results of tests by a pharmaceutical company, Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited. The company developed a drug intended to treat Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.

Collins has denied any wrongdoing. “We will answer the charges filed against Congressman Collins in Court and will mount a vigorous defense to clear his good name,” Collins’ attorney said in a statement.” “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.”

Collins was already being investigated by the House Ethics for his holdings in Innate and his promotion of the company. When the House Ethics Committee began investigating the stock trades a year ago, his spokeswoman called it a “partisan witch hunt.”

Prosecutors say the charges relate to a scheme to gain insider information about a biotechnology company headquartered in Sydney, Australia, that has offices in Auckland, New Zealand. All three defendants were in federal custody Wednesday and were expected to make their initial court appearance in the afternoon.

Collins was a member of Innate’s board of directors and held nearly 17 percent of the stock. When the drug trial’s failure was announced, Innate’s stock price plunged 92 percent.

But the New York lawmaker did not trade the millions of shares he owned before the drug trial’s failure was made public, prosecutors noted, for two reasons. He was already under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, for one. But he also couldn’t — Collins’ stock was held in the Australian stock exchange (ASX), and before the drug trial’s failure was announced, Innate asked the ASX to halt trading of the stock, which the ASX agreed to do, until June 27, 2017, after Innate’s announcement that the drug trial had been a complete failure. This did not affect the U.S. over-the-counter market, however, where Collins’ son’s shares were held. Prosecutors allege that Collins passed along secrets to his son, Cameron Collins, in June 2017.
On June 22, 2017, Innate’s CEO sent an email to the board of directors with the result of the trial. It was a “clinical failure” — there were “no clinically meaningful or statistically significant differences in (outcomes)” between the drug and the placebo. “No doubt we will want to consider this extremely bad news,” he concluded.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-york-congressman-chris-collins-indicted-on-insider-trading-charges/
Note: In addition to the video, please see the following article also included at the above-referenced internet address.

Discussion Questions

1. Define “insider trading.”

“Insider trading” involves using material information not available to the public to make “buy or sell” decisions regarding stock. Insider trading is a crime (a wrong against society) because it diminishes public confidence in the stock market.

2. Insider trading is a type of “white-collar” crime. Define white-collar crime.

A “white-collar” crime often occurs in the professional realm (thus the “white-collar” reference.) It often does not involve the use of force, fear or violence, but can still result in significant harm to victims. For example, with regard to the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, the largest scheme of its kind in United States history, investors were defrauded of at least $20 billion.

3. As the article indicates, Christopher Collins’ attorney stated that “(i)t is notable that even the government does not allege that Congressman Collins traded a single share of Innate Therapeutics stock.” Comment on this sufficiency of this defense to the charges of insider trading, conspiracy and wire fraud filed against Representative Collins.

In your author’s opinion, this is an illegitimate defense. If the evidence proves beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Collins used inside information about Innate Therapeutics to help his son make illicit stock trades, he still committed insider trading even if he did not personally (himself) trade a single share of the biotechnology company’s stock.

Video 2

Commentary: Is It Time for Term Limits on the Supreme Court?

Assuming Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed for the Supreme Court, which, based on the Left’s voluble wailing appears to be a lock, Donald Trump will have appointed two justices before he’s even halfway through his first term. And with two liberal justices in their 80s (Justice Ginsburg is 85, Justice Breyer turns 80 on August 15), the possibility looms that President Trump could appoint a third of the court’s members even if he serves just a single term.

Given the trend of appointing younger and younger justices, it is likely that Trump’s judicial legacy will be felt for another 20 or 30 years. Not surprisingly, this has sparked a backlash from the Left: a call for term limits on the Supreme Court.

Though Americans have supported the idea for years, it’s never been a cause championed by the Left. Until now.

Ezra Klein at the uber-liberal website Vox.com has discovered the advantages of term limits for the high court.

“Why It’s Time to Get Serious About Supreme Court Term Limits” is the headline at the Washington Post.

And over on the op-ed pages, Yale University liberals Ian Ayres and John Fabian Witt write that Democrats “ought to consider ending the lifetime terms of Supreme Court justices.”

“A statute might designate all future Supreme Court seats as 18-year terms, with justices sitting on the court by designation, followed by life tenure on the lower federal bench. The vagaries of justices’ deaths and retirements should not throw American democracy into tumult,” they write.

In a recent Chicago Tribune op-ed, liberal attorney and Watergate scholar James Robenalt joined in, bemoaning that “Trump has a solicitous Senate majority and can ram through his nominees…There is effectively no check on what he can do.” Therefore Robenalt suggests a wholesale review of service on the highest court.

“Term limits, reconfirmation proceedings every eight years, and age limits — all are viable and rational ideas. It may be time for a constitutional amendment,” Robenalt said.

The reaction to all this from the Right is to quote that great American legal scholar, Bruce Willis, from the movie “Die Hard:” “Welcome to the party, pal.”

Conservatives have argued in favor of Supreme Court term limits for years, regardless of which party was in power.

In 2006, when Republicans had control of both the White House and Congress, legal scholars Steven Calabresi and James Lindgren released an influential paper entitled “Term Limits for the Supreme Court: Life Tenure Reconsidered.”

Calabresi is a conservative’s conservative. He served in the Reagan and Bush administrations and co-founded the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group that’s helped guide Trump’s judicial appointments.

In their paper, Calabresi and Lindgren report that, from 1789 to 1970, Supreme Court justices served an average of about 15 years and there was a vacancy every two years or so. “For those Justices who have retired since 1970, the average tenure has jumped to 26.1 years,” they said. “Because of the long tenure of recent members of the Court, there were no vacancies on the high Court from 1994 to the middle of 2005.”

Their suggested solution? Term limits. “A system of staggered, eighteen-year term limits for Supreme Court Justices…whose terms would be staggered such that a vacancy would occur on the Court every two years.”

This approach has long had fans on the Right. Texas Governor Rick Perry made it part of his 2012 presidential race platform. Scholars at the conservative American Enterprise Institute like the idea, and conservative media figures like Mike Huckabee and Mark Levin back term limits, too.

However, while the Right and the Left may be on the same page regarding term limits for SCOTUS judges, their motives are miles apart. The argument from the Right has been that the court has too much power and too frequently operates as an unelected legislature. As a result, every appointment is a political fight to the death, focused almost entirely on the ideological impacts of the future, rather than the resume and legal reasoning of the nominee today. Knowing that there will be a new vacancy on the court every two years will reduce the political rancor and, conservatives hope, pare back the politics that have infected the one branch of government that is supposed to be beyond partisanship.

Ending life tenure for SCOTUS justices would also promote the “consent of the governed” many conservatives have advanced, as opposed to the “angels to govern us” approach rejected by Thomas Jefferson as a form of judicial tyranny. Some conservatives like Senator Ted Cruz have even proposed “judicial retention elections” that would allow a popular vote on the performance of each Supreme Court justice.

This is not the view of the newly-minted term-limit fans on the Left. Their support for limiting terms on the court is found in conversations that also include proposals to “pack” the Supreme Court with a new liberal majority when Democrats take power again. In other words, their focus isn’t the process, it’s the president. Supreme Court term limits are just another part of the Trump #Resistance.

The good news for Americans—who overwhelmingly support term limits for Supreme Court justices today—is that, regardless of their motives, the left and right are in agreement on this fundamental reform. Most scholars agree that imposing these limits would require a Constitutional amendment, a long and arduous process. But with partisans on both sides pushing in the same direction, term limits for the Supreme Court could become the most significant, if unintended, reform of the Trump era.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/commentary-is-it-time-for-term-limits-on-the-supreme-court/
Note: Please see the following article, an opinion piece written by Boston Herald columnist Michael Graham, also included at the above-referenced internet address.

Discussion Questions

1. What does the United States Constitution say about lifetime appointments for U.S. Supreme Court justices?

The United States Constitution does not specifically state that a U.S. Supreme Court justice is appointed for life. Instead, it says the justices “shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour,” which has always been understood to mean until he or she died, retired, or was impeached for bad “Behaviour.”

2. Comment on the last paragraph of the article, which reads as follows:

“The good news for Americans—who overwhelmingly support term limits for Supreme Court justices today—is that, regardless of their motives, the left and right are in agreement on this fundamental reform. Most scholars agree that imposing these limits would require a Constitutional amendment, a long and arduous process. But with partisans on both sides pushing in the same direction, term limits for the Supreme Court could become the most significant, if unintended, reform of the Trump era.”

Are you as optimistic as the author appears to be regarding the possibility of bipartisan support for a Constitutional amendment imposing term limits (for example, the 18-year term limit proposal mentioned in the article) on United States Supreme Court justices? Why or why not?

This is an opinion question, so student responses may vary. In your author’s opinion, bipartisan support for such an amendment is unlikely, particularly given the polar divide that exists between the two major political parties in the United States. Quite simply, one party might perceive such an amendment as benefiting the adversary, and therefore not support it.

3. As the article indicates, Alaska Senator Ted Cruz has proposed “judicial retention elections” that would allow a popular vote on the performance of each Supreme Court justice. In your reasoned opinion, would such a proposal (if implemented) improve the United States Supreme Court? Why or why not?

This is an opinion question, so student responses may vary. Your author is reluctant to support the “American Idolization” of the high Court. In your author’s opinion, the more the Supreme Court is subject to the “prevailing winds” of politics, the less likely the Court will be able to make decisions that fairly and objectively support the rule of law. By design, Justice is supposed to be blind.