eBay has recently agreed to settle a significant case involving a $3 million fine, resolving allegations of harassment directed at bloggers who were critical of the company.
The unsettling details emerged in court papers, revealing that executives at eBay, spearheaded by former senior director Jim Baugh, orchestrated a disturbing campaign against Ina and David Steiner, the creators of the EcommerceBytes newsletter.
The issue revolves around the discontent of eBay executives with the content produced by the Steiners. To express their displeasure, the harassment campaign took an alarming turn.
Live spiders and cockroaches were sent to the Steiners, creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. According to court filings, these actions left the couple “emotionally, psychologically, and physically” terrorized.
Jim Baugh and six associates were identified as the masterminds behind this campaign of intimidation. In addition to the live insects, the victims received highly disturbing packages, including a fetal pig and a funeral wreath, all delivered to their home in Natick, Massachusetts.
The situation didn’t end there; a GPS tracking device was secretly installed on the couple’s car, and false posts on Craigslist were created, inviting sexual encounters at their residence.
The severity of the harassment eventually led to the termination of the involved eBay employees shortly after the incident. In 2021, employee Philip Cooke was sentenced to 18 months in prison, and Jim Baugh received a nearly five-year sentence the subsequent year.
Baugh’s defense team argued that he faced pressure from former eBay CEO Devin Wenig to control the Steiners’ coverage of the company. Despite stepping down from his position in 2019, Wenig, who denies any knowledge of the harassment, has not been charged in the case.
The victims reported enduring significant emotional, psychological, and physical distress due to the orchestrated campaign.
Acting Massachusetts US Attorney Josh Levy said, “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.