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US files criminal charges against eBay in cyberstalking case

US files criminal charges against eBay in cyberstalking case

The Justice Department on Thursday accused eBay of stalking, witness tampering and obstruction of justice in a rare criminal case against a well-known Silicon Valley company.

The charges, which will be dropped under a deferred prosecution agreement if eBay maintains good records for the next three years, stem from actions the company took in 2019 to undermine and silence the authors of an e-commerce newsletter. Which were mildly critical. Some of its behaviour. Intimidation efforts included various forms of cyberstalking and harassment which were continuing even when the perpetrators were arrested.

In its settlement with the government, eBay will appoint an independent corporate compliance monitor. It also agreed to pay a $3 million criminal fine, the maximum penalty for his six felony convictions. Unless the company violates the agreement, the government will not proceed further on the case.

While that money is insignificant for a company that had more than $5 billion in cash in its most recent quarter, notoriety is not.

Acting Attorney General Joshua S. “EBay has engaged in absolutely appalling, criminal conduct,” Levy said. “The company employees and contractors involved in this campaign subjected victims to pure hell in a vicious campaign aimed at silencing their reporting and protecting the eBay brand.”

David and Ina Steiner, authors and publishers of the news site and blog EcommerceBytes, live in Natick, Mass.; eBay is based in San Jose, California. During the harassment campaign, members of the eBay security team flew to Boston to personally ramp up their activities against the couple. When they were caught, they started hiding and destroyed the objectionable messages.

Types of harassment include: threatening direct messages on the social media platform Twitter, now known as X; An attempt to install a GPS device on the Steiners' car; posting advertisements for imaginary sexual events at the Steiners' home; And sending anonymous and scary things like bloody pig masks to the couple's home.

A 24-page document detailing the government's allegations released Thursday detailed the number of eBay executives involved in the case. In earlier documents, only two officers were mentioned – the Chief Executive and the Chief Communications Officer. There is now a third executive, identified as eBay's senior vice president of global operations.

“Sometimes, you just need to make an example of someone,” read the message the chief communications officer sent to the senior vice president on May 31, 2019. “Justice.” Then he said, referring to Ms. Steiner: “We are very good. “He needs to be crushed.”

A spokesman for Devin Wenig, who was eBay's chief executive at the time, had no comment. The other two former officials could not be contacted.

steiners said In a statement on their website that they were targeted “because we gave a voice to eBay sellers and because we reported facts that top executives did not like to be exposed publicly.”

Seven individuals working for eBay's corporate security team were arrested for their actions against Steiners in 2020. All pleaded guilty, and six of them were sentenced to either prison or home confinement. Jim Baugh, who ran the security team, was sentenced to 57 months in prison in September 2022. One person is still awaiting sentencing.

“The company's conduct in 2019 was wrong and reprehensible,” eBay Chief Executive Jamie Iannone said in a statement on the company's website. He said eBay is “committed to maintaining high standards of conduct and ethics and making things right with Steiners.”

The Steiners' attempts to reach a settlement with eBay failed early on. The couple filed a lawsuit against eBay, which is scheduled to go to trial next year.

“The Stiners' goal was always to have the government hold everyone involved criminally accountable, and this is a step in the right direction,” their attorney, Rosemary Scapicchio, said Thursday.

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2024/01/11/business/11EBAY/11EBAY-facebookJumbo.jpg

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