July 24, 2019

Warren Seeks Answers from Pharmaceutical Giant Pfizer on Appointment of Former FDA Commissioner Gottlieb to Board of Directors

Gottlieb is the Second High-Level Trump Official in Less Than Two Months to Join Board of Corporation with Business Before the Government

Letter to Pfizer (PDF) | Response from Dr. Gottlieb (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today sent a letter to pharmaceutical company Pfizer to request information regarding the decision to name Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to the company’s Board of Directors. The letter follows a call by Senator Warren earlier this month for Dr. Gottlieb to resign from his position at Pfizer. 

Dr. Gottlieb is the second high-level Trump Administration official in less than two months who, soon after leaving government service, joined the 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, who helped lead the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy that led to forcibly separating thousands of migrant children from their parents, 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.

Last month, Senator Warren wrote to Dr. Gottlieb expressing her concern with his decision to join the Pfizer Board of Directors and asking that he resign from his role with the company.  Dr. Gottlieb responded to that letter earlier this month, noting his “constructive relationship” with Senator Warren, but indicating that he would not resign from the Pfizer board.

In her letter to Pfizer, Senator Warren reiterated her concerns with Dr. Gottlieb’s appointment and requested information on how Dr. Gottlieb was named to the Pfizer board and what his roles and responsibilities are at the company. 

“I do not doubt Dr. Gottlieb’s intentions… But I remain disappointed that Dr. Gottlieb appears to be unwilling to reconsider his decision to join the Pfizer board and concerned that his role on the board of one of the world’s largest drug manufacturers will cast a pall over any future FDA decisions affecting the company,” wrote Senator Warren.

Senator Warren's sweeping ethics legislation, the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, would shut the revolving door and prohibit giant companies like Pfizer from wielding undue influence by hiring or compensating any senior government officials for at least four years after leaving government service, among other measures to root out corruption in government. From former oil lobbyists running federal agencies to those responsible for protecting our environment and interior, the bill would crack down on all forms of corruption and peddling. 

“Dr. Gottlieb’s rapid and lucrative trip through the revolving door will lead to countless questions about whether Pfizer is purchasing access to high-level Trump Administration officials and whether top FDA staff are making decisions—even unconsciously—in ways that benefit their former leader,” the senator continued in her letter.

Senator Warren has previously criticized Pfizer for reneging on a promise not to hike up the prices on many of its prescription drugs as Americans struggle to afford the medications they need.