eBay has agreed to pay a hefty $3 million fine to settle charges of harassment against bloggers who were critical of the company. The bizarre and disturbing case involved eBay executives sending live spiders, cockroaches, a foetal pig, and even a funeral wreath to Ina and David Steiner, a couple known for producing a newsletter called EcommerceBytes, which the company’s executives found unfavorable.
The harassment campaign was orchestrated by Jim Baugh, eBay’s former senior director of safety and security, and six associates. The Steiners were not only subjected to creepy deliveries of live insects and macabre items but also faced more sinister acts like having a GPS tracking device installed on their car and fake Craigslist posts inviting sexual encounters at their home.
Court documents state that the Steiners suffered severe psychological, bodily, and emotional hardship as a result of these intimidating actions. The pair, who live in Natick, Massachusetts, were the object of eBay’s retaliation because of their negative reporting on the business.
In a bizarre twist, it was revealed that Baugh claimed to have faced pressure from former eBay CEO Devin Wenig to rein in the Steiners over their coverage of the company. However, Wenig, who stepped down in 2019, has not been charged in the case and vehemently denies any knowledge of the harassment campaign.
The employees responsible for the campaign were terminated by eBay shortly after the incident came to light. In 2021, Philip Cooke, an eBay employee, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, while Jim Baugh received a nearly five-year sentence the following year.
Acting Massachusetts US Attorney Josh Levy expressed his condemnation of eBay’s actions, describing them as “absolutely horrific, criminal conduct.” The campaign against the Steiners was characterized as a petrifying attempt to silence their reporting and protect the eBay brand at any cost.
This disturbing incident sheds light on the lengths some corporations may go to suppress criticism, raising questions about ethical practices within the tech industry and the consequences for those who abuse their power.