Brenda Fitzgerald, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has resigned after a damning report revealed several conflicts of interest between her financial holdings and her job.
The report, which Politico released on Tuesday, revealed that Fitzgerald bought shares in a tobacco company despite her agency’s task of reducing smoking in America.
“It’s stunning,” Politico quotes Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids president Matthew Myers as stating. “It sends two messages, both of which are deeply disturbing. First, it undermines the credibility of a public official when they argue that tobacco is the No. 1 preventable cause of disease.”
“Second, and perhaps even worse,” he continued, “it indicates a public official is willing to put their personal profit above the ethics of investing in a company whose products cause so much harm.”
Fitzgerald’s conflicting financial decisions didn’t end there, however. According to Politico, Fitzgerald invested tens of thousands of dollars in a total of at least a dozen drug, food and health insurance companies – all after she accepted her leadership role in one of the nation’s top health agencies.
Those companies included Big Pharma giants Merck and Bayer. Both companies work directly with the CDC, meaning that by investing in those companies, Fitzgerald could benefit from business knowledge not available to the public.
According to Politico, a spokesman for the Health and Human Services Department claimed Fitzgerald’s financial manager had made the purchases and that she subsequently sold them.
However, the spokesman reportedly admitted that those purchases were made even as Fitzgerald was instructed to get rid of other potentially problematic investments.
Despite Fitzgerald’s insistence that she personally did nothing wrong, Talking Points Memo reports that she resigned on Wednesday morning – less than 24 hours after Politico’s report.
“This morning Secretary Azar accepted Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald’s resignation as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the outlet quotes the Health and Human Services department as stating.
“Dr. Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC Director. Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period.”
“After advising Secretary Azar of both the status of the financial interests and the scope of her recusal, Dr. Fitzgerald tendered, and the Secretary accepted, her resignation. The Secretary thanks Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald for her service and wishes her the best in all her endeavors,” the department reportedly added.
Fitzgerald’s resignation, of course, is a huge win for those fighting for impartiality within the government agencies tasked with regulating the food and medical industries.
We’ve already got enough conflicts of interest between Big Pharma and those in Congress who accept their donations.
Kudos to Politico for digging up the details of Fitzgerald’s conflicts of interest and bringing them to light.