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Pfizer parachute may have been a bit too golden

Talk about an overpayment.

Former Pfizer worker Janet Rodriguez was supposed to get about $106,000 in severance when she was let go by the pharmaceutical company. Instead, she got nearly $518,000.

Now Pfizer wants the change.

Pfizer, which has filed suit in in Manhattan Supreme Court over the issue, says the overpayment was the result of an "administrative oversight," according to company spokesman Chris Loder.

The suit says that instead of sending Rodriguez $105,851.75, Pfizer sent a check for $517,140.24 and is demanding repayment of  $411,288.49.

"She was asked repeatedly to return the overpayment and refused this reasonable request," Loder says. He calls the lawsuit "unfortunate." It demands full repayment plus interest and legal fees.

"Defendant has received money of Pfizer that in equity and good conscience she should not be permitted to keep," the suit alleges.

Loder says Rodriguez, who was caught up in a companywide layoff in late 2009, should have known she was being overpaid by more than $410,000.

"Ms. Rodriguez was told in advance what the approximate severance figure would be," he says. The suit details the paperwork Rodriguez received when she left the company, which included an estimate of her severance — an estimate that was within about $2,000 of what she should have received.

Loder wouldn't explain how the mistake happened, or why it took so long for the company to realize it and contact Rodriguez. The half-million-dollar check Pfizer sent Rodriguez was dated March 31, 2010. Pfizer didn't send her the first letter acknowledging the overage and demanding repayment until mid-July of 2010.

In an interview with the New York Post, Rodriguez's attorney, Saul Zabell, argues that the company took too long to address the overpayment. “By virtue of the fact that they bring this claim so late in the game, so long after their alleged mistake, [it] is just a cheap bullying tactic that we expect the court to see right through,” he told the newspaper. Zabell did not respond to a request for comment.

Pfizer reports its third-quarter earnings tomorrow. In the second quarter of 2011, it reported revenues of $17 billion.