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Former FDA Head to Plead Guilty on Stock Charges

Lester Crawford, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will plead guilty today to making a false statement and falsely denying a conflict of interest regarding his stock holdings. According to MSNBC, Crawford lied about his stock holdings and options in companies that were affected by FDA decisions, including consumer products manufacturer Kimberly-Clark, PepsiCo, Sysco, and Wal-Mart. As the chair of the Obesity Working Group in 2003, Crawford and his wife had about $62,000 invested in PepsiCo, a major producer of soft drinks and snack foods, MSNBC reports.

Crawford’s lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, has publicly stated that Crawford admits his guilt to the two misdemeanors. “Absolutely, he did something wrong,” Van Gelder told The Boston Globe, “No matter how complex these transaction forms are, at the end of the day it’s his signatureÉ He will accept responsibility.” Each of the two charges are punishable by up to a year in jail, but Van Gelder expects that Crawford’s cooperation will reduce the severity of his sentence, The New York Times reports.

Crawford was reported to have had an unusual amount of involvement in delaying the decision to approve emergency contraception for over-the-counter sales, according to the depositions of senior FDA scientists. He resigned abruptly as commissioner of the FDA after over-the-counter approval for the drug was delayed in August 2005. The New York Times reports that Crawford’s resignation was just one month after the department’s ethics office began an investigation of Crawford’s finances.

Sources:

New York Times 10/17/06; The Boston Globe 10/17/06; MSNBC 10/17/06; Bloomberg 10/16/06