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CDC director resigns after trading tobacco stock in apparent conflict of interest

Brenda Fitzgerald bought stock in Japan Tobacco in August 2017, one month into her tenure as the agency's director.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Credit: Centers for Disease ControlCredit: Centers for Disease Control

Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, has resigned her post as director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after it was reported that she bought shares of a tobacco company a month into her tenure.

The CDC is a federal agency dedicated in part to preventing smoking and smoking-related ailments, such as emphysema and lung cancer. As tobacco is the most prevalent cause of preventable disease, Fitzgerald's trading of tobacco stock represented a conflict of interest that resulted in her resignation. 

Fitzgerald became director of the CDC in July, bought stock in Japan Tobacco in August 2017, and sold it at the end of October. A day after the purchase, she toured the CDC's Tobacco Laboratory, which studies the toxic effects of tobacco and tobacco products, according to NPR.

Fitzgerald had already drawn Congressional ire for not divesting financial ties to other companies representing potential conflicts of interest. They included drug maker Merck, health insurance company Humana and U.S. Food Holding Corp. Fitzgerald had sold all of her stock holdings above $1,000 by Nov. 21.

Previously, Fitzgerald had served as the director of the Georgia Division of Public Health. She was a close ally of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who resigned in September after it was revealed he had used taxpayer money to fly on private jets.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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