Pfizer Files Federal Lawsuit Against San Diego Employee

The company alleges the worker violated company policy and downloaded thousands of files containing medical research

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Editor's note: NBC 7 published an update to this story reporting the lawsuit had been dismissed. Read it here.

A San Diego woman who worked for Pfizer is accused of downloading thousands of the company's files to a personal account, some of which contained trade secrets and confidential information.

Pfizer filed a federal complaint Tuesday against Chun Xiao Li, asking a judge to order her to cooperate in the investigation. Some of the documents Li saved to her Google Drive account contained medical research on its COVID-19 vaccine, monoclonal antibodies and more, according to Pfizer.

The complaint claims she initially cooperated with the investigation, but then notified Pfizer she was resigning from the company.

NBC 7 Investigates spoke with Li Wednesday. She declined an on-camera interview but said she never meant to download the files and has since deleted them. Li also refutes claims that the documents contained medical research. She confirmed that she is taking a job with Pfizer competitor Xencor, and said she has yet to hire an attorney.

On Tuesday, a judge granted part of a Temporary Restraining Order requested by Pfizer. The court ordered Li not to share confidential information or trade secrets, not to destroy or manipulate the files, not to destroy or throw away any devices that may have contained the files, and to hold onto any hard copies of the information. The judge then set a date of Dec. 9 for Li to appear at a preliminary injunction hearing alongside Pfizer’s attorneys.

NBC 7 Investigates reached out to both Pfizer and Xencor regarding the lawsuit.

Pfizer sent the following statement:

"Pfizer is investigating and pursuing civil action against an employee who we believe improperly downloaded thousands of documents before a planned exit from the company. Pfizer takes the safeguarding of sensitive and confidential information very seriously. Protecting that information is critical to scientific innovation, ultimately enabling us to deliver breakthroughs for patients."

Xencor told NBC 7 Investigates, "Xencor is not a party to the lawsuit and does not have additional comments."

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