eBay Pays $3m Fine Over Harassment Campaign

eBay has paid a $3 million (£2.3m) fine over charges its employees harrassed a Masssachusetts couple critical of the firm.

Prosecutors said executives at eBay sent live spiders and cockroaches to Ina and David Steiner, who published a newsletter called EcommerceBytes that employees disliked.

The couple was left “emotionally, psychologically, and physically” terrorised by the employees’ actions, according to court filings.

“The company’s conduct in 2019 was wrong and reprehensible,” current eBay chief executive Jamie Iannone acknowledged in a statement.

‘Pure hell’

Acting Massachusetts US Attorney Josh Levy told AP that eBay had “engaged in absolutely horrific, criminal conduct”.

“The company’s employees and contractors involved in this campaign put the victims through pure hell, in a petrifying campaign aimed at silencing their reporting and protecting the eBay brand,” he said.

Jim Baugh, eBay’s former senior director of safety and security, along with six associates targeted the couple in a campaign of intimidation, according to the US Attorney’s Office in the District of Massachusetts.

Live insects, a pig foetus and a funeral wreath were sent to the couple’s home in Natick, Massachusetts.

Baugh and his associates also installed a GPS tracking device on the couple’s car and generated posts on Craigslist inviting sexual encounters at their home, according to filings.

Prison terms

The employees in question were fired by eBay shortly after the incident and in 2021 former employee Philip Cooke was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

The following year Baugh received a prison term of nearly five years.

Baugh’s defence lawyers said he had been pressured by former eBay chief executive David Wenig to shut down the Steiners’ coverage of eBay.

Wenig stepped down from the post in 2019, has not been charged and has denied knowledge of the campaign.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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