Elizabeth Warren urges former FDA head to resign from Pfizer

"This kind of revolving door influence-peddling smacks of corruption."


In a recent letter to former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, Sen. Elizabeth Warren called on him to immediately resign from his position on Pfizer’s board of directors. In the letter, Sen. Warren warned Gottlieb that “this kind of revolving door influence-peddling smacks of corruption.”

Serving as FDA Commissioner from May 11, 2017 to April 5, 2019, Gottlieb was later elected to Pfizer’s board of directors in June. Gottlieb was also appointed to the Regulatory and Compliance Committee and the Science and Technology Committee of Pfizer’s board.

On Monday, Warren sent a letter to Gottlieb addressing her concerns about his recent appointment to the large pharmaceutical company’s board of directors. In her letter, Warren wrote, “I ask that you reconsider this decision. I was pleased to have worked with you on a number of public health priorities during your time at the FDA, including strengthening oversight of antibiotic use in animals and fighting the opioid epidemic. Unlike other administration officials who dedicated themselves to rolling back public health and consumer regulations, you often used your tenure to strengthen protections for Americans: for example, you worked to reduce rates of youth tobacco use, and took steps to increase the FDA’s transparency. But now, you will be on the board of a company that has billions of dollars at stake in the decisions made by the agency you used to head and the employees you used to lead.”

The senator also noted that Gottlieb has become the second high-level Trump administration official in less than two months to join a board of a corporation with interests related to their work in the administration. In May, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary and Chief of Staff John Kelly joined the board of Caliburn, Inc., the parent company of the Comprehensive Health Services, which runs the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Florida. Warren and her colleague Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) opened an investigation into General Kelly’s associations with Caliburn before, during, and after his time in government.

“This will certainly be a lucrative move for you – according to Pfizer, board members in 2018 were paid $142,500 in cash retainers, plus received $192,500 worth of Pfizer stock,” Warren continued in her letter to Gottlieb. “But this kind of revolving door influence-peddling smacks of corruption, and makes the American people rightfully cynical and distrustful about whether high-level Trump Administration officials are working for them, or for their future corporate employers.

“I have introduced sweeping ethics legislation, the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, which would shut the revolving door and prohibit giant companies like Pfizer from wielding undue influence by hiring or compensating you or any other senior government officials for at least four years after leaving government service. I intend to keep working to make that plan law. In the interim, you should rectify your mistake and immediately resign from your position as a Pfizer board member. Doing so would send a strong and necessary message to the American people about the importance of government ethics and the integrity of current and former federal officials.”


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