CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald Resigns After Reports Show Investment In Tobacco Stocks

Georgia Reed
February 3, 2018

Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC prior to Fitzgerald, said he believed she was unaware of her tobacco stock holdings.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief Brenda Fitzgerald has resigned due to investment issues, according to the department of Health and Human Services.

A statement from the Department of Health and Human Services said Fitzgerald's complex financial interests had caused conflicts of interest that made it hard to do her job.

According to Politico, Fitzgerald bought tens of thousands of dollars in stock shortly after taking the CDC position in July.

The CDC is the United State's public health protection agency and is tasked with helping to reduce smoking in the United States. Fitzgerald sold the Japan Tobacco shares, as well as all stock holdings higher than $1,000, Politico added.

The swiftness of Fitzgerald's resignation left many in the health care community stunned.

Fitzgerald's ethics agreement wasn't filed until September 7, 2017 - two months after she started at the CDC.

CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald resigned her post Wednesday over conflicts of interest, including stock purchases she made since joining the agency.

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But he cautioned against companies involving themselves in complicated businesses that are not part of their core competency. The three companies have not offered many details regarding the specifics of their plan just yet.

CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat will lead the institute on an interim basis.

That Fitzgerald had holdings that presented possible conflicts in her stock portfolio before starting as director of the CDC was a fixable problem.

She fired back at those reports, denying that any words were banned at the CDC.

"It is unacceptable that the person responsible for leading our nation's public health efforts has, for months, been unable to fully engage in the critical work she was appointed to do", Murray said Wednesday.

A representative for newly sworn-in Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar confirmed the departure in a statement. She also ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1992 and 1994 and later served on the Georgia Board of Education.

Frieden said Fitzgerald "understands that any affiliation between the tobacco industry & public health is unacceptable, & that when she learned of it she directed that it be sold".

Fitzgerald was already under scrutiny for her stock holdings. "I wanted to come and see how it's going and also to see what else we can do to make sure Houston recovers totally", she said at the time.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general declined to comment.

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