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Brenda Fitzgerald, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resigned on Wednesday following a report that she had invested in tobacco stocks while overseeing an agency tasked with promoting public health.
The announcement came less than 24 hours after the disclosure of her investments by Politico. Fitzgerald had been under fire for months for not divesting some of her financial holdings.
The new Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who was sworn in earlier this week, announced the resignation in a brief statement.
The statement said that Fitzgerald owns “certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all her duties as the CDC director.”
It said that Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period, due to the nature of the investments. After advising Azar of the problem, she offered her resignation and he accepted.
Fitzgerald, a longtime OB-GYN from Georgia, served as that state’s public health commissioner before being named head of the CDC.
According to Politico, after assuming her role at the CDC on July 7, Fitzgerald purchased between $1,001 and $15,000 of Japan Tobacco, one of the largest such companies in the world. Records obtained under the Stock Act, which requires disclosures of transactions over $1,000, showed Fitzgerald sold the shares of Japan Tobacco on Oct. 26 and all of her stock holdings above $1,000 by Nov. 21, more than four months after she became CDC director.