Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Former FDA Chief to Plead Guilty to False Statement Charge

Dr. Lester Crawford, former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration for a bit over two months before he abruptly resigned in September 2005, will plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of making a false writing and conflict of interest related to his failure to disclose stock ownership and income on his government disclosure forms.  The two-count information (available on Findlaw here) charges violations under the false writing (18 U.S.C. Sec. 1018) and conflict of interest (18 U.S.C. Sec. 208) statutes.  Prosecutors did not pursue a more serious charge under the general false statement provision, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1001, which is a felony.

Dr. Crawford chaired an FDA Obesity Working Group while he and his wife owned shares in Kimberly-Clark, PepsiCo, Wal-Mart and Sysco Corp, which qualified as "significantly regulated organizations" in which he could not own shares.  The Group met with representatives from the packaged food industry and he testified before Congress about proposals for package labeling without having disclosed his ownership of shares of the companies that would be affected by the FDA recommendations.  He is also accused of not reporting income from the exercise of stock options in Embrex Corp., which was regulated by the FDA while he was Deputy Commissioner and then Commissioner.  The charges carry up to a year in prison each, although I think it's likely that Dr. Crawford will not receive any prison time for the violations in light of the absence of any claim that his decisions were impacted by the undisclosed income and stock ownership.  An AP story (here) discusses the charges. (ph)

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