CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald resigned this morning amid a tobacco stock purchase scandal that was revealed yesterday by Politico.
“This morning Secretary Azar accepted Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald’s resignation,” HHS says in emailed release. “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”
What happened is that as Politico reported on Tuesday, about one month after the Trump health appointee took over as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Brenda Fitzgerald purchased stock in a tobacco company. Of course, as CDC director, Fitzgerald oversees the agency’s efforts to push Americans to stop smoking tobacco products, so the purchase raised questions about conflicts of interest.
According to documents obtained by Politico, last August and September, Fitzgerald bought stock in several companies, including Japan Tobacco, a cigarette manufacturing company. She also purchased stock in pharmaceutical companies Merck & Co. and Bayer, and health insurance company Humana.
In a statement to Politico, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged that Fitzgerald purchased “potentially conflicting” stocks but said that she has now sold them.
“Like all presidential personnel, Dr. Fitzgerald’s financial holdings were reviewed by the HHS Ethics Office, and she was instructed to divest of certain holdings that may pose a conflict of interest. During the divestiture process, her financial account manager purchased some potentially conflicting stock holdings. These additional purchases did not change the scope of Dr. Fitzgerald’s recusal obligations, and Dr. Fitzgerald has since also divested of these newly acquired potentially conflicting publicly traded stock holdings,” the spokesperson said.
Previously, Fitzgerald was already under scrutiny for her stock holdings. She was unable to testify before Congress in January because she had yet to address conflicts of interest created by stock she and her husband own.