Former AG Loretta Lynch Defending Pfizer in Lawsuit over Minority-Only Fellowship Program

Former attorney general Loretta Lynch has entered the fray in a racial-discrimination lawsuit in defense of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, according to a court filing obtained by National Review.

Do No Harm, a nonprofit with the aim of protecting the medical field from the “radical, divisive, and discriminatory ideology” of anti-racism, filed suit against Pfizer in September on behalf of two of its members, alleging that the company is practicing illegal discrimination by limiting one of its fellowship programs to racial minority groups.

The prestigious Breakthrough Fellowship entitles accepted students to a ten-week summer internship followed by two years of full-time employment at Pfizer, after which the company will pay for the fellow to attend graduate school full-time for two years. Following the completion of a graduate program, the fellow will have a full-time job waiting for them at Pfizer. In order to be accepted, applicants must “meet the program’s goals of increasing the pipeline for Black/African American, Latino/Hispanic and Native Americans,” according to Pfizer’s website.

The lawsuit filed by Do No Harm charges Pfizer with “categorically exclud[ing] white and Asian-American applicants,” and violating  “Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.”

“Because Pfizer, a company principally engaged in healthcare, receives federal financial assistance by accepting reimbursement from federal healthcare programs and through other means, all its operations—including the Fellowship—are covered by the federal prohibitions on racial discrimination,” argues Do No Harm in its filing.

Pfizer has expressed confidence that its actions “comply fully with all U.S. employment laws, including the Breakthrough Fellowship Program,” adding that the company provides “opportunities for people without taking them away from others.”

Lynch served as the head of the Department of Justice from April 2015 until January 2017.

As attorney general, Lynch was criticized for meeting privately with former president Bill Clinton in June 2016 while then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was under FBI investigation for her mishandling of classified documents as secretary of state. Lynch denied that the conversation touched on the investigation into Clinton’s wife, stating that it was instead centered around their personal lives.

Since leaving government in 2019, Lynch has made racial discrimination a focus of her work as a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, where she chairs the Civil Rights and Racial Equity Audits practice.

Lynch was recently enlisted to defend the National Football League in a racial-discrimination lawsuit led by former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, who alleges that black coaches are systemically discriminated against by the league.

The former attorney general is also conducting a “racial equity audit” at Amazon, which will include an evaluation of “any disparate racial impacts on our nearly one million U.S. hourly employees resulting from our policies, programs and practices.” It was initiated at the request of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which expressed concerns about possible discrimination against the company’s black and Latino employees. Lynch has also represented the McDonalds Corporation in three separate racial-discrimination lawsuits.

In addition to her representation of companies accused of racial discrimination, Lynch also frequently serves in an advisory role to government agencies. The New York attorney general’s office brought Lynch on as a special adviser as part of its investigation into NYPD conduct during the George Floyd protests of 2020.

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