National Consumers League

FDA insider sentenced for stock trades


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By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director It’s sad when public servants violate the trust that has been placed on them, but it’s also fairly rare in this country. Cheng Yi Liang, a 57-year-old longtime FDA chemist, was recently convicted of using inside information he gained while working at the Food and Drug Administration, to invest in pharmaceutical companies with new drugs coming onto the market. Liang worked on new drug approvals for the FDA, and apparently made more than $3.7 million trading drug company stocks. He made a series of online trades using brokerage accounts in the names of his relatives. What’s impressive is that federal investigators were able to spot the buying and selling of these stocks by an FDA insider and trace the deals to Liang. He’ll go to prison for his crime, as well he should. Prosecutors are asking for between 5 and 7 years’ incarceration. Many federal workers like Liang have access to sensitive information that they could use for their own purposes and for their own profit, and—in countries where corruption is rampant, those who work for government do just that—and often with impunity. We’re fortunate to live in a place that expects our public servants to abide by a strict code of ethics for public servants. We will not permit them to abuse their positions for their own benefit. Liang’s case is a cautionary tale for anyone working for the federal government—or any government agency—who abuses the public trust for personal gain: you may well end up behind bars.