eBay pays $3m fine in blogger harassment caseon January 11, 2024 at 7:51 pm

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Executives sent live spiders and cockroaches to a US couple who criticised the firm, court papers show.

An eBay logo on a phoneImage source, Getty Images

eBay has agreed to pay a $3m (£2.36m) fine to resolve harassment charges against bloggers critical of the company.

Executives at eBay sent live spiders and cockroaches to Ina and David Steiner, according to court papers.

The couple were targeted for producing a newsletter the employees disliked, prosecutors said.

The filings said the couple had been left “emotionally, psychologically, and physically” terrorised.

The US Attorney’s Office in the District of Massachusetts said Jim Baugh, eBay’s former senior director of safety and security, had targeted the couple for producing EcommerceBytes, a newsletter that the company’s executives were unhappy with.

Baugh and six associates led a campaign to intimidate the Steiners, the court papers say.

The acts of intimidation included sending live insects, a foetal pig and a funeral wreath to the Steiners’ home in Natick, Massachusetts.

Baugh and his associates also installed a GPS tracking device on the couple’s car and created posts on the website Craigslist inviting sexual encounters at their home, according to the filings.

The employees in question were fired by eBay shortly after the incident.

In 2021, employee Philip Cooke was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The following year, Baugh was sentenced to nearly five years.

Baugh’s lawyers said he faced pressure from former eBay CEO Devin Wenig to reign in the Steiners over their coverage of the company.

Mr Wenig, who stepped down in 2019, has not been charged in the case and denies knowledge of the harassment campaign.

“eBay engaged in absolutely horrific, criminal conduct,” acting Massachusetts US Attorney Josh Levy told the AP news agency by email.

“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.”

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