The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced that eBay has agreed to pay a $3M fine for cyberstalking and harassment actions taken in 2019 by several former employees against Ina and David Steiner, a Massachusetts couple whose LLC publishes the online newsletter EcommerceBytes. In addition to announcing the fine, the Justice Department said it had determined that the company committed six felonies and will enter into a deferred prosecution agreement over three years.
A Brief Background of the eBay Cyberstalking Case
According to Justice Department prosecutors, the plan to target the Steiners began at eBay in April 2019. Around then, David Wenig, who was the company’s CEO, shared a post on EcommerceBytes regarding his annual pay. eBay’s chief communications officer at the time, Steve Wymer, responded with a text message saying that the company would “crush this lady,” per prosecutors. Wenig reportedly replied about a month later with the phrase, “Take her down.”
In the subsequent months, several eBay employees engaged in cyberstalking and harassment behaviors directed at the Steiners. One instance included the employees visiting the couple’s home and installing a GPS tracking device on their car. The former employees also admitted to sending a bloody pig mask, a fetal pig, a funeral wreath, live insects, and a book on surviving a spouse’s death.
For a more detailed timeline of the cyberstalking activities former eBay employees carried out against the Steiners, see this article.
Current eBay Leadership Issues a Statement
In a press release, current eBay CEO Jamie Iannone provided the following statement:
“The company’s conduct in 2019 was wrong and reprehensible. From the moment eBay first learned of the 2019 events, eBay cooperated fully and extensively with law enforcement authorities. We continue to extend our deepest apologies to the Steiners for what they endured. 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.”
Fallout at eBay
The former eBay executives (and their respective former titles) whom the DOJ charged in 2020 in connection with the case are:
- James Baugh – Senior Director of Safety & Security
- David Harville – Director of Global Resiliency
- Stephanie Popp – Senior Manager of Global Intelligence
- Stephanie Stockwell – Manager of eBay’s Global Intelligence Center
- Veronica Zea – Contractor working as an intelligence analyst in the Global Intelligence Center
- Brian Gilbert – Senior Manager of Special Operations for eBay’s Global Security Team
Former U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, who announced the indictments against the aforementioned employees, said neither Wenig nor Wymer faces criminal charges due to insufficient evidence. Wenig resigned from his role as CEO of the company in September 2019. Wymer reportedly left the company the same year.
The Steiners’ Response to the $3M Fine & Deferred Prosecution Agreement
Ina and David Steiner published a statement on their website in response to the fine and deferred prosecution. In it, they said that they “launched [EcommerceBytes] in 1999 to help regular people and small businesses succeed in selling online and that eBay executives targeted them because they “gave eBay sellers a voice and…reported facts that top executives didn’t like publicly laid bare.”
The couple added that they “remain determined to push for answers and do whatever [they] possibly can to ensure that no corporation ever feels that the option exists for them to squash a person’s First Amendment rights.”
The Steiners concluded their statement with a disclosure that they have filed a civil lawsuit against eBay and its former employees. March 3rd, 2025 is the trial date.