Harassment of blogger couple by former eBay employees “product of company culture”
09/29/2020 // Ramon Tomey // Views

The New York Times recently published an article about a blogger couple allegedly targeted for harassment by former eBay executives, after the couple published an online newsletter critical of the e-commerce platform. The stalking and harassment campaign, apparently rooted in the workplace culture inside eBay, resulted in multiple employees facing federal charges.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling described the campaign as “a determined, systematic effort of senior employees of a major company” to ruin the lives of a couple based in Natick, Massachusetts just because “they published content company executives didn’t like.”

Lelling also outlined how the eBay executives harassed David and Ina Steiner with “disturbing deliveries,” including a bloody pig mask, a box of live cockroaches and a funeral wreath. Furthermore, he added that the harassment against the Steiners included anonymous threatening messages and the employees involved in the campaign traveling to the couple’s home to conduct “covert surveillance.”

Six former eBay employees were each charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses. Among the employees charged were two erstwhile eBay executives, former Director of Safety and Security James Baugh and former director of Global Resiliency David Harville. The other four charged were former eBay senior manager of global intelligence Stephanie Popp, former manager of global intelligence Stephanie Stockwell, former intelligence analyst Veronica Zea and former senior manager of special operations for global security Brian Gilbert. A seventh employee, Philip Cooke, was later charged.


eBay makes executives do “whatever it takes” to break down employees

The article talked about the experience of Zea, who worked under the Global Security and Resiliency division of the e-commerce platform. The division included retired police captains and former security consultants as members; Baugh and Popp called themselves the “Dad” and “Mom” of the division.

“Dad” inculcated ruthlessness in the staff members under the division through different means, Zea shared. He once stabbed a chair with a knife he found – and refused to remove it, subsequently serving as a warning for the faint-hearted. Zea also added that “Dad” would show scenes from different movies and TV shows: “American Gangster” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” emphasized ruthlessness, “Meet the Fockers” illustrated the importance of the “circle of trust” and “Billions” hammered the value of loyalty.

Concentric Advisors chief executive Paul Florence commented: “It felt like eBay was breaking the analysts down psychologically – making them doubt themselves, isolating them [and] turning them against each other.” Concentric Advisors was the staffing agency that placed Zea at eBay, and the e-commerce platform ended its relationship with the staffing firm after Florence protested.

Bullying and aggression channeled into doing “whatever it takes” to harass critics

With employees psychologically broken down, eBay then tapped their aggression into directed efforts against outside criticism.

The Steiners, who were behind the website EcommerceBytes, came into eBay’s crosshairs in April 2019 after Ina Steiner wrote a post about eBay CEO James Wenig earning 152 times the salary of the average employee in the company. Steiner’s post mildly hinted that he made that amount at the expense of sellers in the platform. eBay chief of communications Steve Wymer texted Wenig a link to Steiner’s blog, adding: “We are going to crush this lady.”

The straw that broke Wenig’s back came in an August 2019 post by Steiner, talking about eBay’s lawsuit against Amazon. A text message from the eBay CEO just half an hour after the post was published served as the signal to proceed with the harassment campaign; Wymer texted Baugh, who signaled his readiness to escalate. (Related: Why Silicon Valley CEOs are such raging psychopaths.)

Several tactics were used to harass the Steiners. First was a series of disturbing deliveries – a bloody pig mask, a book titled Grief Diaries: Surviving the Loss of a Spouse, a funeral wreath, a box of cockroaches and copies of adult magazine Hustler with David Steiner’s name on it. Next came the harassment via Twitter, which “Mom” Stephanie Popp conducted using a fake account. The harassment was turned up to eleven with Zea and other team members visiting Natick to physically surveil the Steiner couple.

Baugh’s team attempted to cover their tracks – but to no avail

By this time, the Steiners were suffering: They lost sleep, felt anxiety and became worried after what Lelling described as a “psychologically devastating” experience. They turned to the local police for help, and law enforcement agreed to watch over them.

Turning to the police served the Steiners well, as local law enforcement officers managed to figure out who was responsible for distressing the couple. The tune changed when the Federal Bureau of Investigation and eBay’s lawyers got involved in the probe. Meanwhile, Baugh’s team began a cover-up and attempted to stonewall internal investigators – which led to eBay lawyers putting members of the Global Security and Resiliency division on administrative leave, including Baugh. Zea was later terminated without severance after details of the harassment came to light.

Zea’s experience in a company that ruthlessly intimidates its critics is somewhat similar to what Google employees experienced. While eBay harasses outside critics such as the Steiners, Google retaliates against employees such as Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton over their activism against sexual harassment. Ironically, Google’s motto is “don’t be evil” – a far cry from its company culture that penalizes standing up against evil.

Find out more news about tech giants such as Google and eBay ruthlessly harassing inside and outside critics at TechGiants.news.

Sources include:



ECommerceBytes.com 1

ECommerceBytes.com 2

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