A Trump administration official invested in a tobacco company while heading the federal agency tasked with reducing tobacco use.
Brenda Fitzgerald invested tens of thousands of dollars in stock holdings in at least a dozen companies after becoming director of the Centers for Disease Control, according to public records, reported Politico.
Purchases included shares of Japan Tobacco, one of the largest of its kind in the world, which sells four brands in the U.S.
Fitzgerald, a medical doctor and former Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner, also bought shares in Merck & Co, US Food Holding Co., Bayer and Humana, according to records obtained under the Stock Act.
She toured the CDC's Tobacco Laboratory on Aug. 9, one day after purchasing shares in the Japanese company.
Fitzgerald sold the tobacco shares Oct. 26 and all of her stock holdings above $1,000 on Nov. 21, more than four months after assuming leadership of the federal health agency.
Ethics experts say Fitzgerald should have recused herself from government activities that could have affected her investments in food and drug companies.
“You don’t buy tobacco stocks when you are the head of the CDC -- it’s ridiculous, it gives a terrible appearance,” said Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer for George W. Bush. "It stinks to high heaven."
Fitzgerald has been criticized by lawmakers for holding on to some investments after becoming CDC director, but a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said her complicated stock portfolio was delaying some transfers.