Crawford Pleads Guilty to Conflict of Interest Violations

Former FDA Commissioner Pleads Gulity in Conflict of Interest Case

With so many scandals dominating the evening news these days, you might have missed this little tidbit: Last week, former FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford pleaded guilty to a violation of conflict-of-interest laws.

It seems that during his tenure at the FDA, Dr. Crawford and his wife owned stock in three companies: PepsiCo, Sysco (a food distributor), and Kimberly-Clark (manufacturer of medical devices). The FDA regulates at least some of the activities of each of these companies.

But wait. It gets worse.

According to a Reuters report, ethics officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) informed Dr. Crawford that he had to sell his shares in the three companies. In 2004, when an HHS official inquired about the shares, Dr. Crawford said he had sold them. Whoops. Wrong answer!

So in addition to pleading guilty to violating conflict-of-interest laws, Dr. Crawford also plead guilty to making false statements in financial disclosure forms. On these two charges he could be sentenced to two years in prison and $200,000 in fines. But the Reuters report notes that he’s made some sort of plea bargain with prosecutors, so I doubt we’ll see him out with a road crew, breaking rocks in the hot sun.

After entering his pleas last week, Dr. Crawford told reporters, “Nothing I have done, I hope, can be construed to affect the integrity of the Food and Drug Administration.”

Don’t worry, Dr. Crawford. You can be sure that FDA officials will continue to find all sorts of ways to compromise the agency’s integrity without your help.