Johnson & Johnson accuses former employee of taking thousands of files to new role at Pfizer

As two of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer have long been rivals in various therapeutic areas. That made for an intriguing backdrop when a J&J employee changed sides and allegedly brought thousands of confidential strategy-related files with him.

The drugmaker has sued its former employee Andrew Brackbill in New Jersey federal court, claiming he “clandestinely and maliciously” downloaded more than a thousand sensitive strategy-related files onto external hard drives three weeks prior to his resignation, Stat News first reported.

To make matters worse, Brackbill then accessed the J&J information while on the clock in his new position at Pfizer, J&J alleged.

In addition to the company files, Brackbill transferred personal photos and documents in what J&J claims was an attempt to hide the theft. A company security program flagged the large file transfer, leading to an investigation that included an interview and a forensic examination.

Brackbill’s most recent title during his 24-year career at J&J was Director of Trade Channel Strategy, a role which gave him access to extremely confidential information necessary to make important strategic decisions.

The position is within J&J’s Strategic Customer Group (SCG) department, which is effectively responsible for creating and developing competitive strategies for the company’s medicines. Brackbill had access to confidential sales data, customer and channel lists, pricing models, market research, contracting strategies, launch playbooks and other strategy plans.

Brackbill resigned from J&J in July of last year and finished his last day in August. His new role at Pfizer is as Director of Contract Strategy, U.S. market access, a position that J&J says is a “directly competitive” one.

Pfizer didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

In an industry so rife with competition, such accusations are not uncommon.

In October, Novartis accused one of its former staffers of transferring some 10,000 files to his personal email about a month before he left the company to eventually start at Takeda in a “similar” role, the company argued in its complaint.

Pfizer itself sued a “soon-to-be former employee” in 2021, accusing the staffer of uploading more than 12,000 files to a personal Google Drive account, some of which could contain confidential information about the company’s COVID-19 vaccine.

More recently, Pfizer took two ex-employees to court claiming they stole “the hard work” of Pfizer scientists when setting up a new company.