Long Story Short: Past: Collins; future: new park
Keeping up with Collins II
An hour after LSS landed in subscriber’s inboxes last Monday, with a detailed update on Chris Collins’ insider trading indictment, the Congressman announced he would change his plea to guilty and resign from Congress.
Coincidence? We think not.
But seriously, folks
Collins was never going to win the case. Despite his claim of innocence over the past fourteen months, the evidence against him was clear and compelling. His defense strategy was to stall and delay the inevitable, but on September 3, prosecutors shrewdly announced that they were willing to try the Congressman’s son separately from Collins, meaning Cameron Collins would go to trial on similar charges in early February as planned. Suddenly, the congressman was willing to plea bargain. Since he pled guilty in court, there’s been a flurry of commentary, speculation, and legal and political activity. Here’s a summary.
•Collins resigned from Congress effective Tuesday, leaving the 27th Congressional District without voting representation (his staff will perform non-voting duties).
•Later that day, Collins entered the courtroom smiling and winking.
•In court, he gave a deadpan guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of making false statements to the FBI—both felonies
•Collins admitted that he knew his act of insider trading was illegal when he did it.
•He will spend forty-six to fifty-seven months in federal prison (unless the judge goes outside federal sentencing guidelines).
•He says he is very sorry for the pain he caused.
•On Thursday, Cameron Collins and his future father-in-law, Stephen Zarsky, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud, carrying a potential sentence of thirty-seven to forty-six months.
•Cameron entered the courtroom expressionless, and like his father, he was cool in court.
•He says he truly regrets the pain he caused.
•Zarsky cried and appeared genuinely remorseful.
•There will be a thorough presentencing investigation conducted by an experienced federal probation officer, who will delve deeply into the backgrounds of all three.
•Others, who were tipped off to the impending stock collapse by Cameron Collins and Zarsky, were not charged.
•Chris Collins will be sentenced January 17. His son will be sentenced January 23, and Zarsky will be sentenced the following day.
Numerous Republicans are already hustling to be Collins’ successor. Some have been campaigning since summer. Governor Cuomo must now call for a special election, but there is no timeline as to when he must do this. Once he does, the election must take place between sixty and ninety days later. Depending on when Cuomo calls for the election, that could be anywhere from January to April—or later.
•There will be no primary for the special election; Republican leaders will choose a candidate.
•There’s little chance a Democrat will win the seat in the highly gerrymandered district.
•Collins was one of the first two congressmen to endorse Donald Trump when he was running for President. The other is currently also under indictment.
•President Trump could pardon Collins, and some are betting he will, but he’s busy preparing to be impeached.
•A source close to Collins told the Buffalo News, “He still thinks he didn’t do anything wrong.”
What is insider trading and why does anyone care?
With the conviction of Chris Collins, his son, and family friend on insider trading charges, you might be wondering what exactly that it is, and why it’s illegal. Read on.
Do you feel lucky?
Say you’re an average Joe or Josephine, and you hear of an investment opportunity in a highly speculative stock. Do you invest your life savings? Not unless you’re financially reckless. Why? Because there’s a chance you could lose much or all your savings. Such investing is a form of gambling, a game for the wealthy who can afford to lose. But what if you had confidential information that made your investment a sure thing or made it possible for you to sell before a stock went under? Would you do it then?
That’s insider trading
It’s illegal is because it gives the person with inside knowledge an unfair advantage in the stock market, putting their interests above others and artificially influencing stock prices. Investors with such nonpublic information avoid risk, passing their share of the collective peril onto other investors.
The lesson of Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart was charged with insider trading in 2003 because she had inside information on a biopharmaceutical company in which she owned stock. She learned that an experimental cancer treatment was about to be rejected by the Food and Drug Administration, so she sold her stock before the news became public, passing what should have been her losses onto other investors. This is very close to what happened with Collins, who warned others based on his inside information. In the end, however, Stewart was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy (she lied to protect her broker), with the insider trading charges dropped and securities fraud charges dismissed.
•Most insider trading is never detected. The public generally believes the system is fair, and everyone shares the same risk, but it’s not and they don’t.
•Insider trading wasn’t always illegal. A Supreme Court ruling once called it a “perk” of being an executive. After the excesses of the 1920s, which led to the Great Depression, it was banned, and penalties were imposed.
•To be accused of insider trading, someone must have a fiduciary duty to a person, institution, corporation, partnership, firm, or entity, or they must come by the information from such a person. Collins was a board member of the company that went bust, Innate Immunotherapeutics.
A park like no other
LSS readers might recall that the late Buffalo Bills owner, Ralph Wilson Jr. created a foundation that will donate $50 million to redesign and maintain a new park playground for LaSalle Park.
The Buffalo News is reporting that the planned facilities will be unlike anything Buffalo has ever seen. “The custom play areas are geared for exploration, adventure and education through an emphasis on nature, waterways and the region’s industrial past,” the paper reports.
Pictures of a scale model layout for the park evoke Disneyworld. The plans expand the existing park by adding land across the Thruway on Fourth Street. And there will be woods, where urban children can explore while parents watch on. A peacefully scenic lagoon, concert venue, sports fields, and winter sledding can all be reached by car, with parking in mini-lots throughout.
“Playground” is the proper term for the planned amusement and nature park. With wilderness walkways and themed subdivisions that playfully celebrate various aspects of our natural and industrial heritage, it looks like it will engage people of all ages in many forms of play. Remarkably, those who have seen the plans seem universally excited. Expect it to be a future daily destination for families.
This grandfather just hopes he will fit into the three lengthy tubular theme-slides with his granddaughter.
Construction begins in 2022
Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.
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