Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resigned Wednesday following reports that she bought shares in a tobacco company, among other financial dealings that presented a conflict of interest.
“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,” according to a statement issued by Matt Lloyd, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services. “Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period.”
A report in Politico published Tuesday revealed documents showing several new investments, including in a tobacco company, that Fitzgerald made after she took over the agency’s top job. The CDC is a lead federal agency in preventing smoking and tobacco-related diseases.
Fitzgerald had come under fire on Capitol Hill for not divesting financial interests in other companies that present potential conflicts of interest, including drugmaker Merck, health insurer Humana and US Food Holding Co.
The Politico report, relying on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, shows that one day after Fitzgerald purchased stock in Japan Tobacco, she toured the CDC’s Tobacco Laboratory, which studies tobacco’s toxic effects. She sold the tobacco shares on Oct. 26 and all of her stock holdings above $1,000 by Nov. 21, well into her term as CDC director.
Fitzgerald previous served as the commissioner of the Georgia Division of Public Health.