Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Former F.D.A. Chief Is Charged With Conflict

Lester M. Crawford, former chief of the Food and Drug Administration, was charged yesterday with conflict of interest and lying about stock he and his wife owned in companies the agency regulates.

Dr. Crawford, who resigned abruptly in September 2005, just two months after his nomination had been approved by the Senate, is expected to plead guilty in federal court in Washington today, said his lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder.

Each of the two charges filed against Dr. Crawford, 68, is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, but Ms. Van Gelder said she expected him to be fined and placed on probation.

“It’s his responsibility,” she said, “and he accepts it.”

Senior employees of the food and drug agency are prohibited from owning shares in companies the agency regulates, and when Dr. Crawford became a deputy commissioner in 2002, the government’s charging document says, ethics officials at the Department of Health and Human Services told him that he and his wife would have to sell stock in a dozen regulated companies. Those companies included several large pharmaceutical and medical device concerns, among them Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer, Medtronic and Boston Scientific.

Dr. Crawford and his wife, Catherine, sold their holdings in nine companies, the government says, but retained shares in three others: the food giants Sysco and Pepsico, and Kimberly-Clark, a maker of consumer health care and other products.

In addition, it says, Mrs. Crawford held shares in another regulated company, Wal-Mart, but her husband did not list those holdings in his 2002 financial disclosure.


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