Selling Out The Public’s Safety
The former director of the Food and Drug Administration has finally been charged for lying about his ownership of stock in companies regulated by the agency when he headed it.
When Lester Crawford abruptly resigned from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in September 2005, he gave no reason and government officials refused to comment. It turns out that Crawford falsely reported that he had sold stock in companies when in fact he continued owning shares in the firms regulated by his agency.
The stocks include Teleflex Inc. and Kimberly-Clark, both with medical divisions; large food supplier Sysco Company; Pepsi Co Inc. and Wendy’s International, which sell food products and Embrex, an agriculture biotechnology company. Crawford even chaired a government obesity panel that made decisions affecting food and soft drink manufacturers while he and his wife owned thousands of dollars of shares in two such companies – Pepsi Co and Sysco.
In court papers filed this week, the Department of Justice accuses the veterinarian of falsely reporting that he sold the stock and that he failed to disclose his income from exercising stock options in an agriculture biotechnology company regulated by the FDA. The Justice Department’s fraud and corruption section filed the papers in U.S. District Court in Washington.
The court papers cite a government ethics official who says Crawford sent him an electronic mail assuring that Sysco and Kimberly-Clark stocks had been sold and that he failed to disclose all earnings required for federal officials, including a $20,000 profit for the sale of shares in a biotechnology company.
Fortunately, Crawford only headed the trouble-plagued agency for about a year but he should be punished for his outright conflict of interest and lying. The FDA after all, is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices and our nation’s food supply. The agency can’t possibly do that if its director has a huge financial interest in the companies manufacturing these products.