Former FDA chief pleads guilty over stock holdings

Published on November 01, 2006
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Former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Lester M. Crawford pled guilty Oct. 17 to two misdemeanor charges relating to his failure to inform government ethics officers he owned stock in companies regulated by the FDA.

Just two months after the Senate had approved his nomination to head the agency, Dr. Crawford abruptly resigned in September 2005, touching off speculation and calls for an investigation.

More than a year later, on Oct. 16, Dr. Crawford was charged with one count each of conflict of interest and making false financial disclosures. The following day, he appeared in federal court in Washington, D.C., and pled guilty to the charges, each of which carries a sentence of up to one year in prison. A sentencing hearing was set for January 2007.

Senior FDA employees are barred from owning shares in companies the agency regulates. Dr. Crawford was required to annually file financial disclosure reports detailing his and his wife's investment assets along with sources of income exceeding $200.

Dr. Crawford joined the FDA in 2002 as deputy commissioner. The charges stem back to 2004 when Dr. Crawford was the agency's acting commissioner. According to prosecutors, he did not tell government officials that he and his wife owned stocks in food, beverage, and medical device companies, specifically, PepsiCo, Sysco, Kimberly-Clark, and Embrex Inc.

Prosecutors did not accuse Dr. Crawford of using his influence at the FDA to inflate the value of his stocks.

Dr. Crawford's lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, could not be reached for comment. She is reported as saying the fact that the charges are misdemeanors shows Dr. Crawford's desire for full disclosure by his having amended his financial forms following his resignation.