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Former FDA chief pleading guilty to not reporting financial interest in companies

[JURIST] Dr. Lester Crawford [official website], a veterinarian who served briefly as commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] last year, will plead guilty to failure to disclose his financial interest in companies regulated by the agency, his lawyer said Monday. Crawford is scheduled to appear in federal court Tuesday to enter guilty pleas to charges of false writing and conflict of interest - misdemeanors with a combined maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment. The charges [criminal information, PDF] resulted from a grand jury investigation [JURIST report] begun after the New York Times reported [text] that financial disclosure forms from Crawford and his wife showed they had sold shares in FDA-regulated companies, such as Embrex, Sysco, Teleflex and PepsiCo [corporate websites]. In fact, Crawford's lawyer said Monday, the couple retained ownership of the shares, resulting in "errors and omissions" on the disclosure forms.

Crawford resigned after only three months as FDA commissioner [JURIST report] amid criticism that he delayed a decision to authorize over-the-counter distribution of emergency contraception [product backgrounder]. Crawford and supporters argued that his refusal was grounded on scientific and legal concerns rather than political ideology [JURIST report], but a Government Accountability Office report [PDF text] characterized the FDA's review as procedurally "unusual" [JURIST report]. The existence of the criminal investigation was disclosed during proceedings in a civil suit against Crawford [JURIST report] brought by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights in response to the debacle. AP has more.

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