Lester Crawford

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Lester M. Crawford, who resigned in September 2005 after two months on the job as President George W. Bush's Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was charged October 16, 2006, in federal court "for conflict of interest and making false statements related to his investments." [1]

"Crawford, 68, falsely stated in a 2004 government filing that shares of Sysco Corp. and Kimberly-Clark Corp. had been sold when he and his wife continued to hold them, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said in the charging documents. Crawford also failed to disclose income from exercising stock options in Embrex Inc., the documents said." [2]

Crawford currently works as Senior Counsel for the Washington lobbying firm Policy Directions Inc., a position he took up in January 2006. [3]

Resignation

Crawford, described as an "affable veterinarian who specialized in food safety," resigned "abruptly" on Friday, September 23, 2005, "telling his staff that at age 67 it was time to step aside." Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach was appointed by President Bush "to be the FDA's new acting commissioner." [4]

"Crawford's resignation came just two months after the Senate, in a long-delayed move, elevated the longtime agency deputy and acting commissioner to the top job. ... [In August 2005], morale at the agency plummeted when Crawford indefinitely postponed nonprescription sales of emergency contraception over the objections of staff scientists who had declared the pill safe. FDA's women's health chief resigned in protest." [5]

"Crawford, who had worked at the FDA on four occasions over 30 years, as well as the Agriculture Department and as an adviser to the World Health Organization, cited among his accomplishments new steps to improve drug safety and speed drug development, and bringing more funding to the cash-strapped agency through manufacturer-paid fees." [6]

Charged With Breaching Conflict of Interest Rules

In mid-October 2006 Crawford was charged with breaching FDA conflict of interest rules by holding shares in companies the FDA regulated and lying about the shares that both he and his wife owned. When he was appointed, Crawford was told top sell shares he held in 12 companies. However, he sold share in only nine of the regulated stocks. However they retained shares in the food companies Sysco, Pepsico and consumer health care company Kimberly-Clark. In addition, Crawford's wife held shares in Wal-Mart Stores but these were not listed on his 2002 financial disclosure. [7]

The conflict of interest charges arose because he owned shares in Sysco and Pepsico at a time that he was chair of the FDA's Obesity Working Group which reviewed labelling standards for soft drinks.

The New York Times also reported that Crawford "exercised options to buy shares in an F.D.A.-regulated poultry biotechnology company in 2003 and 2004, earning almost $30,000 altogether. He did not list them in disclosure filings, as he should have, even though properly reported the transactions on his tax returns, the government said." [8] The Washington Post identified the company as Embrex Inc. [9]

Crawford pled guilty on October 17, 2006 to both charges and will be sentenced on January 22, 2007. [10]

Background

A biographical note states that Crawford "served as Deputy Commissioner, Acting Commissioner and Commissioner at the Food & Drug Administration between 2002 and 2005. This was his fourth stint at FDA going back to 1975. He also served as Administrator of the Food Safety & Inspection Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (1987-1991). In the academic world, Crawford served for 13 years in various capacities at the University of Georgia including Chairman of the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology. At Georgetown University, he was Director of the Center for Food & Nutrition Policy from 1997-2001. And he held positions of authority at the National Food Processors Association and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges in the 1990s. [11]

"Additionally, Crawford is a Member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Food Safety of the World Health Organization," it states. [12]

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