eBay has agreed to pay a $3 million criminal penalty as a settlement for a harassment campaign against a Massachusetts couple who operated a critical newsletter about the company.
The campaign, orchestrated by eBay employees, involved sending disturbing packages, including a bloody pig mask, live insects, and a fetal pig, to Ina and David Steiner’s home in 2019.
The company faced six criminal charges, including stalking, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice.
eBay’s employees aimed to intimidate the Steiners and silence their critical reporting on the company, leading to a petrifying experience for the couple.
The $3 million settlement, announced on Thursday, is the maximum statutory fine for eBay’s charges.
Massachusetts Acting US Attorney Joshua Levy condemned eBay’s conduct as “absolutely horrific,” emphasizing the significant impact on the victims.
As part of the settlement, eBay is required to have an independent corporate compliance monitor for three years and enhance its compliance program.
In a statement on Thursday, eBay CEO Jamie Iannone acknowledged the wrongdoing in 2019, calling it “wrong and reprehensible.”
Iannone expressed deep apologies to the Steiners and highlighted the company’s efforts to strengthen policies, procedures, controls, and training since the incident.
The harassment campaign was fueled by employee frustration with the Steiners’ critical newsletter tone.
Jim Baugh, eBay’s former senior director of safety and security, was identified as the ringleader and was sentenced to 57 months in prison in September 2022.
Six other employees faced felony convictions for their involvement in the crimes.
The disturbing packages were not the only form of harassment; eBay employees surveilled the Steiners, installed a GPS tracking device on their car, and posted their address on Craigslist, inviting the public for sexual encounters at their homes.
eBay terminated all involved employees in 2020, including the former chief communications officer, although the latter was not accused of any criminal wrongdoing.
The settlement marks eBay’s acknowledgment of the wrongdoing and its commitment to preventing similar incidents in the future through enhanced compliance measures.