In Wake of Fitzgerald Resignation from CDC, NLJ Quotes Leslie Kiernan on Best Practices for Nominees/Appointees

Akin Gump litigation partner Leslie Kiernan was quoted by The National Law Journal for its article “CDC Head’s Resignation: Lessons From Lawyers for Appointees,” on the departure of Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after published reports that she had bought shares in a tobacco company after she assumed office in July.

Kiernan, who served as Deputy White House Counsel during the Obama administration and is experienced in government enforcement investigations and ethics and compliance matters, noted some lessons that can be taken from Fitzgerald’s rise and fall.

She said that, once a stock divestment plan or recusal strategy has been developed regarding matters in which there is a financial interest, all parties, from the principal to financial advisers, brokers and others, must understand the rules and procedures.

Kiernan said that these rules will vary, in terms of extant and nature, depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. She added, “You can think about giving the broker instructions such as, ‘You may not purchase a category of stocks without prior approval,’ or you may take the extraordinary step of saying, ‘You may not purchase anything without prior approval.’”

Further, she noted that it is important that these issues be handled expeditiously in order to keep them from dragging on: “You have to make a judgment about how long certain things will take and whether the [recusal or divestment] is manageable within that time frame. If you make the judgment that it’s not going to be manageable, then sometimes officials end up forfeiting their financial interests. It’s very important to focus on what the duties of the office are.”