eBay To Pay $3 Million After US Couple Became Target Of Harassment, Stalking

eBay To Pay $3 Million After US Couple Became Target Of Harassment, Stalking

eBay terminated all of the employees involved after an investigation.

E-commerce giant eBay has agreed to pay a $3 million criminal penalty in connection with the harassment and stalking of a Massachusetts couple, CBS News reported. eBay was charged criminally with two counts of stalking through interstate travel, two counts of stalking through electronic communications services, one count of witness tampering and one count of obstruction of justice and has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement, the Department of Justice said on Thursday. 

The couple, Ina and David Steiner had been subjected to threats and bizarre deliveries, including cockroaches, live spiders, a funeral wreath and a bloody pig mask in August 2019. 

“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 and protecting the eBay brand,” Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy said in a statement.

According to eBay’s admissions, between approximately Aug. 5, 2019, and Aug. 23, 2019, Jim Baugh, eBay’s former Senior Director of Safety and Security, and six other members of eBay’s security team targeted the victims for their roles in publishing a newsletter that reported on issues of interest to eBay sellers. Senior executives at eBay were frustrated with the newsletter’s tone and content and the comments posted beneath the newsletter’s articles. The harassment campaign arose from communications between those executives and Baugh, the DOJ added. 

In response, Baugh and his co-conspirators executed a harassment campaign intended to intimidate the victims and to change the content of the newsletter’s reporting. The campaign included sending anonymous and disturbing deliveries to the victims’ homes, including a book on surviving the death of a spouse, a bloody pig mask, a fetal pig and a funeral wreath and live insects; sending private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the newsletter’s content and threatening to visit the victims in Natick; and travelling to Natick to surveil the victims and install a GPS tracking device on their car. 

The harassment also featured Craigslist posts inviting the public for sexual encounters at the victims’ homes.

The DOJ said that when Baugh learned of a police investigation into the harassment, he made false statements to the police and his team deleted digital evidence. 

eBay terminated all of the employees involved after an investigation. 

“The company cooperated fully and extensively with law enforcement authorities throughout the process. EBay does not tolerate this kind of behaviour. eBay apologizes to the affected individuals and is sorry they were subjected to this. EBay holds its employees to high standards of conduct and ethics and will continue to take appropriate action to ensure these standards are followed,” the independent special committee formed by eBay’s board of directors to oversee the company’s investigation said in a statement.

The DOJ said that 7 eBay employees were convicted for their role in the harassment campaign, many of whom served prison sentences. Bough was sentenced to 57 months in prison in September 2022. 

“Today’s settlement holds eBay criminally and financially responsible for emotionally, psychologically, and physically terrorizing the publishers of an online newsletter out of fear that bad publicity would adversely impact their Fortune 500 company,” Jodi Cohen, special agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Boston Division, said in a statement.

“It also puts in place some much-needed checks and balances to ensure an overhaul of eBay’s corporate culture,” Cohen added.


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