Online auction platform eBay Inc. has reached an agreement with federal prosecutors to settle criminal charges related to the harassment campaign against a blogger couple. The company has agreed to pay a $3 million fine as part of a deferred prosecution agreement.
Background of the Case
In 2019, members of eBay's security team, including its senior director, initiated a campaign of intimidation against Ina and David Steiner, the editor and publisher of eCommercebytes. The Steiners, known for their critical writing about the company, were targeted with threatening items by anonymous individuals.
Disturbing Acts of Harassment
Prosecutors revealed that the couple received disturbing items such as a book on surviving the death of a spouse, a bloody pig mask, a fetal pig, a funeral wreath, and live spiders. Alongside these items, the perpetrators engaged in harassment through private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the content of eCommercebytes and even threatening to visit the Steiners' home in Massachusetts.
The wrongdoing did not stop at sending threatening items and messages. eBay security personnel allegedly traveled to Massachusetts to conduct surveillance on the Steiners' home and even installed a GPS tracking device on their car. Additionally, the campaign included posting Craigslist ads inviting strangers for sexual encounters at the victims' residence.
The charges against eBay Inc. included multiple counts of stalking, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice. The settlement reached with federal prosecutors avoids litigation by implementing a deferred prosecution agreement.
This case highlights the significance of holding corporations accountable for the actions of their employees and serves as a reminder that harassment and intimidation will not be tolerated in any form.
Unveiling eBay's Criminal Stalking Campaign
Prosecution Exposes eBay's Unprecedented Modus Operandi
Prosecutors have revealed that eBay executives were infuriated by certain written content from the Steiners. Consequently, a campaign of harassment was spawned as a result of conversations among senior management and the former head of security at eBay, Jim Baugh.
According to Joshua Levy, the acting U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, "eBay 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." Levy further emphasized that the criminal resolution imposed upon eBay comprises the maximum fine allowed by law, holding the company responsible for fostering a corporate culture that facilitated this unparalleled stalking campaign.
A request for comment made to representatives for eBay has yet to receive a response.
In their plight against eBay's invasion of their privacy, the Steiners detected eBay security personnel near their residence and promptly reported the incident to the police. However, prosecutors state that Baugh, in his capacity as head of security at eBay, lied to investigators and tampered with evidence.
As a consequence of their involvement in the cyberstalking campaign, Baugh and six other eBay employees and contractors pleaded guilty to charges. Baugh was subsequently sentenced to 57 months in prison. Notably, three other high-ranking eBay security executives were also handed prison sentences, while two received house arrest sentences. At present, one former security manager awaits sentencing.
It is worth mentioning that last month, a judge ruled that the civil case filed by the Steiners against eBay and some of its former executives could proceed.