Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has stepped down amid reports she made investments in big tobacco stocks.
Fitzgerald bought tobacco stock about one month into her tenure at the helm of the CDC, according to a report in Politico. She took over last July 7 after previously working as a medical doctor and as the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health.
"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 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in an announcement Wednesday. "Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period."
Fitzgerald's alleged investment came a month into her time at the CDC, charged with leading the fight against smoking and tobacco use, which is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S.
The big tobacco investment was one of about a dozen that Fitzgerald made after she took over at the CDC, according to Politico. She's been criticized before for taking too long to scale back investments in other possible conflicts of interest, including drug and food companies.
In the string of investments made during her tenure at the CDC, Fitzgerald reportedly purchased between $1,001 and $15,000 of Japan Tobacco Inc. (JAPAF) , which sells four tobacco brands in the U.S., according to Politico.
Fitzgerald previously owned shares of Reynolds America, British America Tobacco PLC (BTI) - Get Report , Imperial Brands, Philip Morris International Inc. (PM) - Get Report and Altria Group Inc. (MO) - Get Report while working in Georgia, where the holdings were considered legal.
Fitzgerald's financial manager reportedly sold the shares. But it's worth noting from an investment standpoint that tobacco stocks have made a pretty penny in recent months, despite CDC efforts to curb smoking.
Japan Tobacco over-the-counter shares are higher nearly 4% since the start of the year. Altria shares have pushed higher about 10% in the last three months, while Philip Morris stock gained 4.7% in the same period.
Big tobacco stocks pay big dividends, too. Altria has a 3.8% dividend yield and Philip Morris has a 4% dividend yield. Both top the dividend yields of Apple Inc. (AAPL) - Get Report and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) - Get Report .
Fitzgerald might not have made the best investing decisions as the head of the CDC, but she's not too shabby when it comes to stocks.
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