CDC Director Fitzgerald Resigns over Financial Conflicts of Interest

This week, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Brenda Fitzgerald resigned over reports that she purchased tobacco company shares while serving as the nation’s top public health official. One day after purchasing stock in Japan Tobacco, Fitzgerald reportedly toured the CDC’s Tobacco Research Laboratory, which is tasked with studying the impacts of tobacco on human health.

Fitzgerald’s purchase of tobacco stock came amid ongoing concerns over her complex financial arrangements which forced her to recuse herself from a number of the agency’s key activities and duties. In several instances, Fitzgerald was unable to appear at Congressional hearings due to potential financial conflicts of interests related to the matters being discussed, including the flu epidemic and public health threats. As such, Fitzgerald faced increasing scrutiny from Congressional members about her progress in divesting financial stakes in multiple companies that presented potential conflicts, including pharmaceutical, healthcare, and food industry companies.

According to an official statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding Fitzgerald’s stock holdings, Fitzgerald “could not divest from them in a definitive time period,” prompting her resignation. Prior to her six-month stint at CDC, Fitzgerald was previously the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat has been named acting director.