Corruption

CDC Director Caught Red Handed, Resigns

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Among many other things, it was Brenda Fitzgerald's job as director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to convince people that smoking is bad, but Politico first reported last night that she was trading tobacco stocks even after she became the director.

Buying shares of tobacco companies raises even more flags than Fitzgerald’s trading in drug and food companies because it stands in such stark contrast to the CDC’s mission to persuade smokers to quit and keep children from becoming addicted. Critics say her trading behavior broke with ethical norms for public health officials and was, at best, sloppy. At worst, they say, it was legally problematic if she didn't recuse herself from government activities that could have affected her investments.

Fitzgerald explained herself to Politico by saying her financial account manager "purchased some potentially conflicting stock holdings" without her direction.

You can believe that if you want to, but it may not matter because Fitzgerald has now resigned.

A statement Wednesday from the Department of Health and Human Services said Fitzgerald’s complex financial interests had caused conflicts of interest that made it difficult to do her job. Alex Azar, who was sworn in as head of the department Monday, accepted her resignation.

This is all outrageous but, at the same time, the man with the ultimate conflict of interest is still in the White House.

This culture of corruption starts at the top.

  • muselet

    Not only did Brenda Fitzgerald purchase tobacco company shares, she held shares in healthcare companies while serving as director of CDC.

    It’s bitterly amusing that the Trump administration has cut her loose, citing her *ahem* “complex financial interests,” since those weren’t exactly secrets before she was appointed.

    I’m running out of synonyms for “corrupt.”

    –alopecia

  • Dread_Pirate_Mathius

    I can’t purchase any single name stocks or derivatives on single name stocks. I literally cannot buy Apple or IBM.

    Why?

    Because I work at a hedge fund, and the burden of avoiding any semblance of even the slightest conflict of interest means that I need pre-approval to take a piss. You can forget about trading a name that’s in our portfolio – or ever was in our portfolio – or that we’re considering. I can only sell what I had when I started – with pre-approval. And once they’re sold, I can’t buy them back. Ever.

    And it’s not like I can really do anything to the value of a stock. But it’s so imperative that we remain completely above reproach that we abide by these draconian rules.

    Why do we hold high ranking government officials to a lower standard?

    • muselet

      We don’t. Certain parties who shall remain nameless (as John Oliver said, paraphrasing, “When anyone says his name, he has a shattering orgasm.”), though, do.

      That’s what ethics lawyers are for, to keep this kind of crap from happening. Steve Benen this morning:

      As Richard Painter, who served as George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer, put it, “You don’t buy tobacco stocks when you are the head of the CDC. It’s ridiculous.”

      And for Brenda Fitzgerald to blame her “financial account manager” doesn’t pass the giggle test.

      –alopecia

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