Pfizer sues employee for allegedly stealing confidential COVID-19 vaccine documents

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

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In a complaint filed in San Diego federal court on Tuesday, Pfizer said Chun Xiao Li violated its confidentiality agreement by uploading more than 12,000 files from company-issued laptops to her personal accounts and devices.

Reported materials include a September 24 “playbook” that includes internal evaluations and recommendations regarding the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer’s relationship with its German vaccine partner, and presentations on cancer antibodies.

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Pfizer said that Lee, an associate director of statistics, tried repeatedly to cover his tracks, even providing a “decoy” laptop to fool him into thinking what he had done with the files. did.

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Lee “misleaded Pfizer about what he took, how he took it, when and why, and where those files (and possibly others) could be found,” the New York-based drugmaker said.

Pfizer said Lee is resigning after 15 years at the company, and appears to have proposed on November 29 to join Zencor Inc., a California clinical-stage company focused on the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Lee could not immediately be reached for comment via his LinkedIn account. Xencor is not a defendant in the lawsuit, and it declined to comment.

Pfizer said competitors are trying to recruit their employees “relentlessly, especially during 2021.”

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In an order late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Kathy Ann Bencivengo temporarily barred Lee from accessing Pfizer’s trade secrets, and said company attorneys could review the accounts and equipment where she stored them. would have done.

The judge scheduled a December 9 hearing to consider a longer injunction.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Leslie Adler

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