eBay agreed to pay out a $3 million fine—the maximum criminal penalty—over a twisted scandal that saw top executives and other employees stalking a couple in Massachusetts who published a newsletter that criticized the company. The harassment campaign included online threats, sending employees to surveil the couple’s home, and mailing them disturbing objects—including live spiders and cockroaches, a bloody pig mask, and a book on recovering from the death of a spouse.
The Justice Department charged eBay with obstruction of justice, witness tampering, stalking through interstate travel, and stalking through online communication. eBay’s former security director James Baugh and former director of global resiliency David Harville are both serving jail time for their roles in the scheme.
The couple, Ina and David Steiner, published a statement on their website Thursday. “eBay’s actions against us had a damaging and permanent impact on us—emotionally, psychologically, physically, reputationally, and financially,” the Steiners wrote. “We strongly pushed federal prosecutors for further indictments to deter corporate executives and board members from creating a culture where stalking and harassment is tolerated or encouraged.”
The criminal activity seems to have started at the top of the company. In 2019, Ina Steiner published an article on the couple’s newsletter EcommerceBytes discussing a lawsuit eBay brought against Amazon. Half an hour later, eBay’s then-CEO Devin Wenig sent another executive a message saying: “If you are ever going to take her down…now is the time,” according to court documents. The message was forwarded to Baugh, who responded that Steiner was a “biased troll who needs to get BURNED DOWN.”
Wenig, who resigned later that year, denied any knowledge of the criminal activity and wasn’t charged with a crime. The Steiners are currently suing Wenig for his role in the campaign to “intimidate, threaten to kill, torture, terrorize, stalk and silence them.”
“We continue to extend our deepest apologies to the Steiners for what they endured,” said Jamie Iannone, eBay’s current CEO, in a press statement. “Since these events occurred, new leaders have joined the company and eBay has strengthened its policies, procedures, controls and training. eBay remains committed to upholding high standards of conduct and ethics and to making things right with the Steiners.”
A total of seven eBay employees and contractors have been convicted for their involvement in stalking and harassing the Steiners, according to the Department of Justice. In addition to Baugh and Harville, the list includes Stephanie Popp and Philip Cooke, who were both sentenced to jail time in 2022. Stephanie Stockwell and Veronica Zea were each sentenced to one year of home confinement that same year. Brian Gilbert pleaded guilty and is currently awaiting sentencing.