Jun 16, 2020 - Technology

Ex-eBay employees charged with harassing journalists

The Ebay logo.
Photo: Andrej Sokolow/picture alliance via Getty Images

Federal prosecutors said Monday that at least six former eBay employees engaged in a disturbing harassment campaign against the editor and publisher of a newsletter that covers the company.

The big picture: The must-be-read-to-be-believed court papers read like the script of a caper movie gone bad, and the incident appears to be at least a part of why the company parted ways with CEO Devin Wenig last September. At the time, eBay was also under pressure from activist investors over its slow growth.

Details:

  • The feds say the former employees sent various items, including a fetal pig, funeral wreaths and books on surviving the loss of a spouse, to the husband-and-wife team that write the newsletter.
  • Two employees were arrested Monday and charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses, while four others were named and charged in court papers.
  • In addition to the items sent to the couple's house, authorities say the pair had their personal information publicized, and pornography was sent to neighbors' addresses under the husband's name.

Later, the eBay employees offered the company's help in tracking down the persons responsible, while also interfering with a police investigation, according to U.S. attorneys. The eBay employees also allegedly tried to spy on the couple by placing a GPS tracker on their vehicle.

  • The U.S. Attorney's office alleges that, in August 2019, two members of eBay’s executive leadership team "sent or forwarded text messages suggesting that it was time to 'take down' the newsletter's editor."

What they're saying: In a statement, eBay said it "took these allegations very seriously from the outset" and terminated all the employees involved, specifically mentioning its former chief communications officer, who was not named in the charges.

  • "Upon learning of them, eBay moved quickly to investigate thoroughly and take appropriate action," the company said. "The company cooperated fully and extensively with law enforcement authorities throughout the process. eBay does not tolerate this kind of behavior. eBay apologizes to the affected individuals and is sorry that they were subjected to this."
  • As for Wenig, who stepped down last year, eBay said its internal investigation found that he didn't authorize or know in advance about the actions, but did make communications that were "inappropriate." The company said there were "a number of considerations leading to his departure." Wenig was not charged in Monday's court papers.
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