eBay has agreed to pay $3 million in connection with a 2019 harassment campaign directed at a Massachusetts couple that had been critical of the e-commerce site. The US Department of Justice announced the maximum criminal penalty on Thursday and said the company committed six felony offenses.
Specifically, the DOJ charged eBay 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. The charges stem from a heinous harassment campaign carried out by a group of seven eBay employees, some of whom were company executives.
In 2019, the employees came up with a plan to target Ina and David Steiner, a couple who ran an e-commerce newsletter that covered eBay with a critical lens. In addition to sending the pair online threats, the employees visited the couple’s home to conduct surveillance and sent them grotesque items, including a bloody pig mask, a funeral wreath, live insects, and a book about getting through the death of a spouse. Former eBay security director James Baugh and the company’s former director of global resiliency were sentenced to prison in 2022, while the five remaining employees were also charged.
“eBay engaged in absolutely horrific, criminal conduct,” Acting US Attorney Joshua S. Levy said in a statement. “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.”
As part of the deferred prosecution agreement, the DOJ is requiring that eBay retain a corporate compliance monitor for three years and “make extensive enhancements to its compliance program.” eBay responded to the agreement in a post on its website, writing it “takes responsibility for the misconduct of its former employees.”
“The company’s conduct in 2019 was wrong and reprehensible,” eBay CEO Jamie Iannone said in a statement. “From the moment eBay first learned of the 2019 events, eBay cooperated fully and extensively with law enforcement authorities… eBay remains committed to upholding high standards of conduct and ethics and to making things right with the Steiners.”
Update January 11th, 2:10PM ET: Added a response from eBay.