How to lose your cush job at eBay and go to jail
Technology for Lawyers
Published: February 9, 2024
Several eBay senior executives have lost their jobs, and their freedom, after they cost the company a $3 million settlement with the DOJ over a critic-correction game gone very badly.
Maybe don’t hire ex-CIA guy as company security, just saying.
Natick, Massachusetts married couple David and Ina Steiner were just cruising along, minding their own business and putting out a newsletter called eCommerceBytes (https://www.ecommercebytes.com/) which was maybe a little critical of the online retail giant eBay. Or maybe a lot critical. Anyway, First Amendment time.
But there is no First Amendment when your head of security is ex-CIA and the pressure is on to do something about lowly little eCommerceBytes.
Did not occur to them, apparently, to just fix everything that the newsletter found wrong with eBay (and continues to find wrong with it).
The Steiners underwent what they called a “relentless” campaign by eBay to harass and intimidate them for their criticisms of the company.
"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 Levy said in a statement.
Overseeing this campaign was the aforementioned ex-CIA guy, Jim Baugh.
At Baugh’s direction, several company executives mailed the Steiners spiders, a bloody pig mask, a funeral wreath and a book on adjusting after the death of a spouse, as well as anon harassing Twitter messages and “bizarre” emails.
In August 2019, Baugh and a group of execs were caught outside the Steiner’s home, 3,000 miles from their office, attempting to install a tracking GPS on the Steiners’ car.
Baugh was arrested and is serving a 57-month jail sentence. Others went to jail for less time or home confinement.
EBay CEO Jamie Iannone in a statement called his company's conduct in 2019 "wrong and reprehensible," opens new tab and he said eBay was "committed to upholding high standards of conduct and ethics and to making things right with the Steiners."
Criminal charges will be dropped in three years if the company doesn’t screw up like this again.
In addition to the $3 million fine (which is the maximum allowable by law), the Steiners are suing eBay and the perpetrators individually. That case is scheduled for trial in 2025.
Reporting by Reuters and others.