The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Brenda Fitzgerald, resigned on Wednesday following a report that she purchased shares in a tobacco company one month into her role at the agency.
“This morning Secretary Azar accepted Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald’s resignation as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 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,” said U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesman Matt Lloyd in a statement. “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 CDC is the United State’s public health protection agency and is tasked with helping to reduce smoking in the United States. For example, the agency runs an ongoing and large media campaign to discourage smoking called Tips From Former Smokers.
The tobacco stock Fitzgerald purchased was one of “about a dozen” new investments by the CDC director after she took the job, according to Politico’s report. Financial disclosure documents obtained by Politico show Fitzgerald purchased between $1,001 and $15,000 in new stock holdings of Japan Tobacco, according to the report. The purchases were made one month after Fitzgerald took the CDC job. Fitzgerald sold the shares of tobacco on Oct. 26 and her other holdings by Nov. 21, which is more than four moths after she became the director of the CDC, Politico reports, citing financial disclosure documents.
Fitzgerald was already under criticism for her slow process in divesting from other financial conflicts of interest.
Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC prior to Fitzgerald, said he believed she was unaware of her tobacco stock holdings.
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