Will ex-Pfizer chief Jeff Kindler (photo) find his second act in government work? The Obama administration will soon need a replacement for Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who's been tapped to serve as ambassador to China, and Bloomberg reports that the president is considering Kindler for the cabinet post.
Kindler left Pfizer abruptly a few months ago after some behind-the-scenes wrangling with the board. He'd been CEO for four years, having joined Pfizer from McDonald's, where he was EVP and general counsel. Business-wise, he presided over the merger with Wyeth, among other things. Politically, he was among those pharma execs who signed on to Obama's healthcare reform early in the debate, giving the president some leverage to get the legislation through. He also served on a presidential advisory panel on exports.
Sources tell Bloomberg that Kindler is among several candidates for Commerce secretary, including Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who's leaving the company, and U.S. Trade Rep Ron Kirk. The administration wouldn't comment specifically on the selection, however. "The president will consider a range of qualified candidates, but we are at a very early stage in the process and no decisions have been made," Jen Psaki, an administration spokeswoman, told the news service.
As Bloomberg notes, Kirk has something of an edge on the confirmation side, having been vetted already for his current post. Corporate execs, however, might face a grilling about their business practices during confirmation hearings. For Kindler, that could mean questions about off-label drug marketing, considering Pfizer agreed in 2009 to pay record-setting fines--a total of $2.3 billion--to settle allegations of mismarketing Bextra and several other drugs.
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