The Pfizer logo is pictured on their headquarters building in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
SOURCE: Reuters

Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) has sued a long-time employee for allegedly stealing “scores” of confidential documents, including some related to its COVID-19 vaccine, as she prepared to jump to a competitor.

According to a report from REUTERS news agency, Pfizer filed a complaint on Tuesday November 23rd, in a San Diego federal court, in which it claimed:

“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 September 24th “playbook” containing internal assessments and recommendations about the Pfizer/BioNTech (22UAy.DE) COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer’s relationship with its German vaccine partner, and presentations related to cancer antibodies,” the report from REUTERS said.

Pfizer told the court that 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 REUTERS report quotes the company.

A vial labelled with the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine is seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Li reportedly is resigning after 15 years at Pfizer.  The company says she appears “to have an offer to join Xencor Inc (XNCR.O), a California clinical-stage company focusing on treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases, on November 29th.”

REUTERS notes that Li could not immediately be reached for comment through her LinkedIn account, and that Xencor is not a defendant in the lawsuit and declined to comment.

With regard to its employees, the news story quotes Pfizer as saying competitors have been “relentless” in their attempts to recruit its employees, “especially during 2021.”

The REUTERS story confirmed that U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo issued an order late on Tuesday, temporarily blocking Li from using Pfizer’s trade secrets.  The judge said the company’s lawyers can review accounts and devices where she might have stored them.

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

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Story by JONATHAN STEMPEL, Reuters