Tom Price was replaced as Health and Human Services(HHS)secretary after news reports of his ownership of health-care related stocks surfaced. Conflicts, conflicts. Mr. Price was replaced by now secretary Alex Azar. Poor Mr. Azar had to show Brenda Fitzgerald, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the door, after a report that during her tenure as Georgia’s health secretary she had owned shares in five tobacco companies (Reynolds American, British American, Imperial Brands, Phillip Morris, and Altria). Further, Ms. Fitzgerald had begun her tenure at CDC with initiatives to convince Americans to stop smoking. Her divestiture of the tobacco stocks was glacially slow and becoming an irritant to congress as she recused herself from all matters tobacco.
The spokesman for the CDC indicated that the stock ownership “complicated” her work at CDC. Conflicts of interests do tend to bring those complications to the fore. However, beyond the slow divestiture, was her purchase of shares in a Japanese tobacco company one month after taking over the CDC. Once that purchase hit the airways, Ms. Fitzgerald resigned.
Here’s the Barometer’s thought — if you are the boss of getting people to stop smoking, why would buying stocks in tobacco companies be a smokin’ deal? (as it were) The conflicts are embarrassingly large, but perhaps we should also question the now former secretary’s wisdom and judgment as well. Then again, the purchase was of shares in a tobacco company located in a country where they puff away without CDC efforts. Perhaps the move was a shrewd one, diabolical even. She was betting on smokers in Japan. You can’t make this stuff up.