CDC director resigns over financial conflicts

NEW YORK — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resigned Wednesday in the wake of a report that she traded stock in a tobacco company after taking her role.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald had been on the job since July.

A statement Wednesday from the Department of Health and Human Services said Fitzgerald's complex financial interests had caused conflicts of interest that made it difficult for her to do her job.

Soon after Channel 2's Dave Huddleston's report on Channel 2 Action News at Noon, the CDC removed the picture and bio.

Fitzgerald, who previously served as Georgia’s top public health official, tendered her resignation after detailing the scope of her financial interests to Health Chief Alex Azar.

The U.S. Department of Health said Fitzgerald bought and owned stock from Philip Morris International and a number of health care companies.

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Brookhaven resident Jan Cummings told Huddleston that Fitzgerald should have resigned.

"I think that's a conflict of interest,” Cummings said. "Tobacco is not good for our health and she's the head of the Centers for Disease Control."

Fitzgerald said she sold some of the stock but still has others because of financial restrictions that prevent her from selling them.

“Dr. Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC director,” said spokesman Matt Lloyd. “Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period.”

Huddleston contacted financial advisor and WSB Radio host Wes Moss to find out how difficult is it to divest some of your stocks. He told Huddleston that you can do it within seconds.

"If it's held in an investment account or your own personal retirement account the process could literally take under 10 seconds," Moss said.

In the CDC's statement, it said starting today, the principal deputy director will serve as acting directing. It's not known when the president when appoint a new director.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Associated Press contributed to this report.