Pfizer sues employee for stealing confidential documents

Pfizer sues employee for stealing confidential documents

Pfizer Inc. was sued by a longtime employee for allegedly stealing scores of confidential documents, including some related to its COVID- 19 vaccine, as she prepared to jump to a competitor.

In a complaint filed on Tuesday in San Diego federal court, Pfizer said that Chun Xiao Li breached her confidentiality agreement by uploading more than 12,000 files without permission to her personal accounts and devices from her company-issued laptop.

The alleged materials include a Sept. 24 playbook with internal assessments and recommendations about the Pfizer BioNTech COVID 19 vaccine, Pfizer's relationship with its German vaccine partner, and presentations related to cancer antibodies.

According to Pfizer, Li, an associate director of statistics, tried repeatedly to cover her tracks, even providing a decoy laptop to fool it into thinking what she did with the files.

Li has misled Pfizer about what she took, how she took it, when and why she did it, and where those files and possibly others can be found, the New York-based drugmaker said.

Pfizer said Li is resigning after 15 years at the company, and appears to have an offer to join Xencor Inc, a California clinical-stage company focusing on treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases on Nov. 29.

Li could not be reached for comment via her LinkedIn account. Xencor is not a defendant in the lawsuit, and he hasn't said anything.

Pfizer said competitors have tried to recruit its employees relentlessly in the past, especially in 2021. In an order late on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo temporarily blocked Li from using Pfizer's trade secrets, and said the company's lawyers could review accounts and devices where she might have stored them.

The judge is expected to hold a hearing on December 9 to consider a longer injunction.