eBay has been found criminally liable in connection to the 2019 cyberstalking of journalists Ina and David Steiner of Ecommercebytes, and agreed to pay a penalty of $3 million as part of a deal to defer further prosecution.
The eBay cyberstalking scandal is heading for a 2025 civil trial date, but questions & confusion about executive culpability still linger - what will the discovery process uncover as this complex case moves forward?
eBay SVP Global Operations Wendy Jones and Steve Krystek, the CEO of security company Progressive F.O.R.C.E Concepts LLC, have been added as defendants in the Steiners' amended civil suit.
It's been over two and half years since the bombshell news of the eBay cyberstalking scandal hit the headlines, exposing a bizarre corporate plot that unfolded in the summer of 2019, targeting Ina and David Steiner, the editor and publisher of ecommerce news site EcommerceBytes, and seeking to unmask the identity of unsuckEBAY, a particularly vociferous commenter who sparked the ire of top executives at the company.
As the matter has slowly wound its way through the courts, many questions have been raised about why the victims were targeted, what really happened and where accountability should lie.
While many answers have so far been elusive, the ongoing cases have revealed sordid details of the harassment that included disturbing deliveries of live insects, bloody pig masks and funeral wreaths as well as threatening messages, doxxing, and ultimately escalated to in-person stalking and an attempted break-in at the hands of eBay security personnel.
Senior Director Security Jim Baugh, Director of Global Resiliency David Harville, Security Manager Philip Cooke, Senior Manager of Global Intelligence Stephanie Popp, Global Intelligence Manager Stephanie Stockwell and a contracted security analyst Veronica Zea all pleaded guilty and have been sentenced for their roles in the crimes.
A seventh defendant, Senior Manager of Special Operations Brian Gilbert, also pleaded guilty but has had his sentencing postponed due to being diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
The Steiners have also filed a civil case against the criminal defendants plus ex-CEO Devin Wenig, ex-Communications Chief Steve Wymer, eBay Inc. and security company Progressive F.O.R.C.E Concepts - alleging communications from the very top of the c-suite directed and egged on the harassment.
In a press release at the time the civil case was filed in June 2021, the Steiners' attorney, Rosemary Scapicchio, said they were bringing the suit to hold those responsible for the campaign accountable.
The suit alleges eBay engaged in a conspiracy to intimidate, threaten to kill, torture, terrorize, stalk and silence the Steiners through a barrage of around-the-clock cyberstalking, ominous death threats and deliveries, and in-person surveillance that caused the Steiners to fear for their lives.
"The Plaintiffs are taking the brave step to hold all those responsible, accountable for these despicable acts." said Rosemary Scapicchio, lawyer for the Plaintiffs...
..."This has been an unbelievably difficult ordeal for my wife and I," said David Steiner. "Never did we imagine doing our jobs as journalists would lead to this. We want to protect the rights of reporters and their freedom of the press. We have endured enormous cruelty and abuse and feared for our lives. If this behavior can happen to us, it can happen to anyone."
Text messages and emails from Wenig and Wymer as well as Chief Legal Council Marie Oh Huber and SVP Global Operations Wendy Jones have raised eyebrows and while neither Oh Huber or Jones were named in the original complaint, questions about corporate accountability still linger.
How Did We Get Here?
The Steiners founded EcommerceBytes over 20 years ago, and it quickly became a "go to" source on a wide variety of topics across the gamut of online marketplaces that have risen to prominence in that time, including eBay, Amazon, Etsy, and more.
They've described how a once professional relationship with eBay became strained over the years, with the company becoming increasingly insular and sometimes outright antagonistic - for example in 2012, eBay falsely reported the EcommerceBytes website to their web hosting service as a phishing scam.
Under CEO Devin Wenig, executive frustration with the site grew exponentially, centered around not just the content of their reporting, but also that of the comments section, where sellers and buyers alike often raised questions and concerns, aired sometimes critical opinions, or sought to bring important business impacting issues to light.
That frustration hit new highs in 2018 and 2019 as one particular commenter known as FidoMaster (also known as Dan Davis and later changed to unsuckEBAY) made waves posting comments on Ecommercebytes, in the eBay community forums, on Twitter and elsewhere across the web.
Commentary on corporate issues was of particular interest to eBay, such as mass layoffs and a management shakeup in 2018 or an article about Wenig's oversized compensation package (earning 152 times the average eBay employee at the time) in April 2019.
This was especially true after activist investor Elliott Management went on the attack in January 2019 with a public letter to eBay's Board of Directors calling for a portfolio review, renewed focus on the core marketplace and improved operational execution.
According to the letter, despite its remarkable history as one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms, eBay as a public-company investment has underperformed both its peers and the market for a prolonged period of time.
While eBay’s core Marketplace continues to enjoy sustained growth and the two other franchises that eBay owns, StubHub and eBay Classifieds Group, are thriving, eBay suffers from a deeply depressed valuation due to its history of misexecution. Elliott believes that eBay is worth far more – but change is urgently needed to address both public perceptions and real business issues.
Today eBay suffers from an inefficient organizational structure, wasteful spend and a misallocation of resources. By increasing operational efficiency, eBay can free up capital to invest in capability- and revenue-enhancing activities.
Wymer (Executive 2) requested Baugh to conduct an in-depth investigation of the FidoMaster/unsuckEBAY Twitter account in March 2019, looking to identify the person behind the account and trying to find any connection to EcommerceBytes.
In March 2019, in response to a request from Executive 2, the GIC prepared a report for BAUGH summarizing the Account's discussions of eBay over the last year.
The report noted that FidoMaster1/Dan Davis was an "anonymous Twitter user that posts negative content about eBay and its senior leadership."
Regarding Fidomaster1/Dan Davis' relationship with the Newsletter, the report noted "the owner of this account corresponds regularly with [the Newsletter] editor [Victim 1] about issues pertaining to eBay. [Victim 1] and [the Newsletter] are known for publishing negative content about eBay and its executives."
Source: Steiner et al v. eBay Inc. et al 1:21-cv-11181 Doc 1
One particular sore spot for the execs was a May 2019 article written about CEO Devin Wenig turning a historic house on the eBay campus into a replica of his favorite NYC bar in 2017, which many viewed as a questionable use of corporate resources.
unsuckEBAY/FidoMaster's amplification of the story on Twitter, and criticism of what he called Wenig's "self-indulgent vanity project", also caught eBay's attention.
On May 21, 2019, forexample, the Newsletter reported that eBay had built on its campus an expensive replica of Walker's — a popular Manhattan bar— noting,"(it's probably news to sellers (and shareholders?) that eBay has a pub-like lounge on campus - especially one built with what appears to be no-expenses spared."
FidoMaster1 tweeted a link to the article, noting "@[Newsletter] posted about @eBay's beleagured [Executive 1s] self-indulgent vanity project 'Walker's West' campus bar." The tweet continued, "The bar, [Executive 1's] recreation of iconic @WalkersBarNYC is a throwback to internet and gaming company CEO's lavish overspending on 'legacy' facilities and landmarks."
FidoMaster1 also criticized Executive 1 for undertaking the project while eBay was experiencing "cost reduction, layoffs, and scrutiny by activist investors."
The executive leadership team was so concerned about the optics of the story, Jones requested to "huddle" about the matter over lunch.
According to Baugh's legal team:
At the lunch meeting, Jones asked Mr. Baugh if he could find a way to deal with the issue “off the radar since comms and legal couldn’t handle it.”
Jones told Mr. Baugh, “Just get it done. I don’t want to know the details, just make sure you sync with Wymer.” Mr. Baugh thereafter provided regular updates to Jones.
Why would Jones explicitly take herself out of the proper chain of command, as Baugh's direct supervisor, and instead tell him to report to Wymer?
If true, that looks like a textbook definition of plausible deniability to me.
Text messages between Wenig (Executive 1) and Wymer (Executive 2), showed increasingly amped up reactions to EcommerceBytes' coverage, including a message to "take her down."
On April 10, 2019, for example, Executive 2 texted Executive 1, "We are going to crush this lady, sending along a link to the Newsletter's coverage that day of Executive 1's compensation.
On April 20, 2019, discussing the Wall Street Journal's coverage of Executive 1, Executive 1 texted to Executive 2, "Fuck them. The journal is next on the list after [Victim 1]."
On May 31, 2019, commenting on the Newsletter's coverage of eBay that day, Executive 2 texted to Executive 1, "Shockingly reasonable..." Executive 1 replied, "I couldn't care less what she says." Seconds later, Executive 1 added, "Take her down."
Days later, on June 8, Gilbert traveled from California to Massachusetts to engage in an act of vandalism clearly intended as a warning - tagging the word Fidomaster on the Steiners' fence.
On June 8, 2019, co-conspirator Brian Gilbert spray painted “FidoMaster” on the Steiners’ fence. Mr. Baugh told Wymer that his team had given the Steiners “a tap on the shoulder.” Wymer expressed approval but did not ask questions.
In the immediate aftermath of the vandalism, the ELT was pleased, because they executives perceived that negative postings had subsided.
The pressure continued throughout June and July, with Baugh even receiving a text from Wenig's wife, complaining about comments that had been made by other posters on EcommerceBytes.
While things were escalating in the c-suite, Baugh was in regular communication with both Wenig and Wymer, who urged him to find a solution to the "problems" that, as Jones allegedly said, "comms and legal could not handle."
The security department at eBay under Baugh's reign was a dysfunctional and toxic environment, where analysts were routinely "broken" and loyalty to Baugh was paramount.
Veronica Zea’s statement to this Court...lays out in exquisite detail what employment under Jim Baugh was like...
As another young, female analyst described work in the Global Intelligence Center under Baugh: it was a toxic and manipulative work environment where the leadership (Jim Baugh, Dave Harville and Stephanie Popp) continually tested the analysts’ loyalties and erased boundaries through psychological manipulation... because the analysts were contractors through Concentric Advisors, they did not have access to eBay’s human resources and Baugh and the other managers effectively blocked communication with Concentric.
...When Concentric learned of the intolerable work environment and asked to speak to eBay management about the problem, Baugh immediately terminated the Concentric contract and all of the analysts, including Veronica, were then employed through Progressive F.O.R.C.E. Concepts, a company owned and operated by a close friend of Baugh’s.
...Paul Florence, the chief executive officer of Concentric Advisors, said: “It felt like eBay was breaking the analysts down psychologically – making them doubt themselves, isolating them, turning them against each other.” In 18 months, eBay fired at least a dozen analysts. As [Analyst] said, when Mr. Florence protested the treatment of the contract analysts, his firm was fired too. “I was relieved,” he said. “It seemed like a cult.”
The Global Security and Resiliency (“GSR”) unit…was a toxic environment run by a man who terrorized and intimidated Stephanie [Stockwell] and others he supervised…As run and managed by Jim Baugh, a former government security professional who repeatedly told his staff that he had been in the CIA, Stephanie found herself subject to bizarre scenarios on a regular basis.
We need to be ready”, Baugh would say. “ We are the only ones who can prevent it from being really bad,” he would instruct…
…One time, he found a knife on a barbeque grill on campus which he told everyone could have been used to hurt someone, then immediately stabbing a chair in their office where the knife remained for some time, with the resulting hole in the chair permanently enshrined as a reminder of what can happen when you don’t do your job…
...The seeds of the tragedy that unfolded at eBay causing havoc, heartache, and fear for V1 and V2 disseminated from Baugh’s bizarre, unorthodox and frankly, inappropriate and dangerous work environment.
Manipulating and psychologically breaking down his immediate staff so that he could accomplish his goals and achieve his desires is outrageous. That other professionals and executives at eBay didn’t step in to stop it thereby allowing GSR to fester unheeded endangered its immediate unit employees and contractors as well as the broader eBay community including the public.
The manipulation didn't stop there - Stockwell says after the harassment campaign had been discovered and investigations were underway, the then married Baugh manipulated her into having a sexual relationship and gave her a "gift" of $5,000
Baugh’s obstruction continued past October 2019, when the government sent him, Stockwell, and several other co-conspirators target letters.
Baugh manipulated Stockwell, by starting to have sex with her in the wake of the harassment campaign, and by paying her $5,000 in cash just before her proffer with federal investigators—a purported gift that she should not deposit all at once because it might cause trouble with the government.
Baugh also “prepared” Stockwell for the meeting by suggesting she only discuss what she had seen personally (which was nothing in Boston or Natick). He also instructed Stockwell to lie about the nature of her relationship with Baugh because it would not reflect well on her (which she then did). Baugh ended the relationship almost immediately after the proffer.
Source:USA v. Gilbert et al 1:20-cr-10098 Doc 89
Zea's letter to the court recounts an uncomfortable encounter with Baugh at a Las Vegas strip club after being tasked to fly to eBay Open in 2019 to surveil arrivals at the airport, hoping to catch Fidomaster/unsuckEBAY.
Even more disturbing, Zea insinuates she may have been drugged and raped after being convinced by Baugh to go with him to Popp's apartment and not being allowed to leave.
He gave me a drink and put on a movie as Popp went to sleep in the other room. I just remember getting really tired and struggling to keep my head up...
...I tried to call an Uber to leave, but was prohibited from doing so...
...I got up to leave and saw a shirtless Baugh covered by a blanket on the couch. The things I don't know from that night continue to haunt me.
How is it possible that Baugh was running the security department this way for years, with outside contracting services being very vocal in their concerns, without anyone in Operations, HR, Legal or other departments taking action to stop it?
In another chilling section, Zea describes being shown a graphic video supposedly of an employee jumping in front of a train after being laid off, to drive home the point that anything perceived as bringing negative attention on eBay was a "threat" to morale that it was her job to guard against.
Baugh ordered the group to maintain around the clock monitoring of EcommerceBytes and to step up efforts to out unsuckEBAY.
That fake disgruntled employee was "Marissa", as shown in these excerpts provided exclusively to Value Added Resource by unsuckEBAY.
One might wonder why a seasoned comms professional like Wymer (who was a communications director for the US Senate before taking his skills to the corporate world) didn't reach out to unsuckEBAY in an official capacity to attempt to address concerns the account was raising?
While I can see how that could have been a risky proposition from a PR perspective, it certainly would not have had anywhere near the potential blowback of what actually occurred.
UnsuckEBAY has confirmed he has never received any official (or unofficial) acknowledgement or good faith efforts to engage from eBay before or after these events, despite the fact they clearly knew how to send him private messages.
Wenig and Jones were both conveniently on sabbatical in August 2019 when the situation escalated even further, but that didn't stop them from still being in contact with other members of the executive leadership team and/or Baugh.
Wenig (Executive 1) exchanged texts with Wymer (Executive 2) on August 1st, saying it was time to "take down" Ina Steiner. Wymer then forwarded that text to Baugh, expressing his "hatred" while committing to "embrace managing any bad fallout."
On August 1,2019, the New York Times published an article reporting that eBay had accused Amazon in a lawsuit of unlawfully poaching eBay sellers to Amazon's online marketplace.
That day, at approximately 1:46 p.m., Victim 1 posted an article on the Newsletter......Just half an hour later, at 2:19 p.m., Executive 1 texted Executive 2: "[Victim 1] is out with a hot piece on the litigation. If you are ever going to take her down..now is the time."
Executive 2 responded shortly afterward by text message: "On it."
As set forth below, a series of text messages followed between Executive 2 and Baugh, beginning with Executive 1 's suggestion to Executive 2 that "we ... take her down".
Court documents show a series of texts wherein Wymer said "If we're ever going to take her down, now is the time....hatred is a sin. I am very sinful."
Baugh replied "Let me ask you this. Do we need her entire site shut down? I'm not fucking around with her anymore."
Wymer: "Amen, I want her DONE"
Baugh: "[Wenig's initials] said to burn her to the ground correct?"
Wymer: "She is a biased troll who needs to get BURNED DOWN."
The conversation continued -
Baugh: "Copy that. I have a plan B. I will put it in motion. Will take 2 weeks"
Wymer: "I'll embrace managing any bad fall out. We need to STOP her."
On August 6, 2019 there was a flurry of emails starting with Wenig expressing his desire to see the unsuckEBAY Twitter account shut down and assigning the task to Baugh, with Oh Huber and Wymer copied.
Wymer responded, confirming he had previously discussed the issue with Baugh and explored all angles with Twitter but had been unable to get @unsuckEBAY killed.
Oh Huber echoed the frustration, but her and another member of eBay legal, Aaron Johnson, advised there wasn't a strong claim to appeal to Twitter to kill unsuckEBAY's account.
Baugh chimed in that his team had been investigating for weeks and were close to discovering the identity and location of unsuckEBAY.
Oh Huber accepted that answer with a smiley face emoji, saying she would hold off on pursuing further legal steps in light of Baugh's investigation.
However, Wymer added more fuel to the fire the next day by making it very clear how utterly vexed by the situation he was, saying any effort to "solve" the problem should be explored...Whatever. It. Takes.
While Jones was not originally included in this email chain, excerpts from court documents show Baugh forwarded at least 2 of the emails to her.
At the same time, Baugh was also separately texting with Wenig about his efforts to out unsuckEBAY and then copied Jones for "visibility."
On August 6, 2019, Wenig received another email complaint about FidoMaster. He sent the following email to Huber, Wymer, and Mr. Baugh: “First of all we should shut down the account. Second, this user name keeps popping up causing all kinds of trouble. Might be worth some research Jim.” Wymer responded that he had Mr. Baugh had been working on the issue. Huber and her colleagues responded that legal remedies were not and would not be effective...Mr. Baugh separately texted with Wenig:
Mr. Baugh then forwarded the thread to Jones (to provide “visibility,” keeping her in the loop). Jones responded with a “thumbs up.”
In the wake of those texts and the August 6th emails, several meetings were held to set in motion plans to ratchet up the investigation, culminating in a white knight strategy to try to earn good will with the victims and gain their cooperation in identifying unsuckEBAY.
In the first of these meetings, BAUGH directed Popp, Stockwell, Zea, and Analysts 1, 2, and 3 to anonymously harass Victims 1 and 2...
...BAUGH called the harassment a "distraction campaign" and suggested that scary masks, live insects, or embarrassing items, such as pornography and strippers, be sent to the Victims (and in some cases to their neighbors in the Victims' names)...
...in a separate meeting during the week of August 5th Baugh gathered Popp, Gilbert, and Supervisor 1 to plan another way to harass the Victims.
Specifically, Baugh, Popp, Gilbert, and Supervisor 1 planned to send a series of anonymous tweets and Twitter direct messages...the messages would gradually get more aggressive, culminating in the publication of the Victims’ home address...
...by design, these threatening messages would allow eBay—through Gilbert and another GSR employee—to approach the Victims with an offer of assistance to investigate and stop the threatening messages, thereby earning the Victims' trust, creating good will toward eBay, and getting the Victims' cooperation in identifying the author of the [unsuckeBay] Account. (This will be referred to in this affidavit as "the White Knight Strategy").
Notably, US Attorney Seth Kosto explicitly called out the White Knight Strategy to out Fidomaster/unsuckEBAY as particularly egregious, abhorrent to First Amendment values and cause for significant sanction in his sentencing memorandum in the criminal case against Cooke.
First, Cooke and his coconspirators targeted the Victims based on what they had written and published, and because they had made space for others to publish in comments beneath the Newsletter’s articles. Journalism about public companies, especially the world’s largest ecommerce brands, is important to investors, merchants, and customers alike.
That some at eBay disagreed with the Newsletter’s coverage, and that Baugh shared that sentiment as justification to target the Victims, is abhorrent to First Amendment values.
While there is no good reason to harass and intimidate anyone, the logic that led to the Victims’ suffering is absurd. Accepting for purposes of argument that Cooke and others were focused on Fidomaster and his online critiques, they harassed the Victims as a means of identifying and discrediting Fidomaster. That Cooke and others targeted innocent third parties is worthy of significant sanction...
...Cooke asserts that, in the August 6 meeting, he tried to talk his colleagues out of at least some parts of the harassment campaign. But what remained, even in his telling, was a series of increasingly harassing messages directed to a journalist, to set up a sting, to enable Gilbert to make a false offer of assistance, to predispose Victim 1 to help eBay with its Fidomaster problem.
Baugh's team put the plan into action swiftly, with multiple phases to be stretched out over several weeks.
In a third set of planning meetings in early August 2019, Baugh recruited Harville and Zea to travel to Boston to physically surveil Victims 1 and 2 at their home and in their community. The purported purpose of the trip was to find evidence that the Victims and the author of [unsuckEBAY] were collaborating to publish negative content about eBay...
...On August 11, 2019, at approximately 3:15 p.m. (PT), Baugh messaged Harville: "you and I need to fly to east coast for op. I'll book travel arrangements off the grid."...
...Baugh then messaged that he would be sending a screenshot to HARVILLE: "Once you read it delete this entire thread and DONT SAVE TO YOUR PHONE or we will all get fired." The following messages came next, including a copy of an earlier message that Baugh had exchanged with [Wymer] about "neutralizing [Victim 1's] website" and [Wymer’s] response that he wanted to "see ashes":
Baugh next sent screenshots of several July 2019 emails regarding the executive leadership team's concerns about UnsuckeBay (i.e., the Parody Account). HARVILLE replied, "Holy crap!"
BAUGH then forwarded to Harville a screenshot of [Wymer’s] August 6, 2019 email ...After sharing these screenshots, BAUGH messaged HARVILLE at 3:32 p.m.:
Since Ina Steiner was "known" to eBay, presumably the "unknown" target of the orders to "find and destroy" was unsuckEBAY.
The documents go on to list a series of frightening messages and deliveries the victims received beginning August 7, 2019 (excerpted below):
Beginning on August 7, 2019, as described below, the Victims began to experience what BAUGH had directed: a stream of harassing, embarrassing, and disturbing deliveries. Victim 1 similarly began to receive a torrent of tweets and direct messages directed by BAUGH, drafted by Popp, and approved by Gilbert and Supervisor 1, in furtherance of the White Knight Strategy.
That day, Victim 1 received a Twitter private message from an account with username and display name that she did not recognize, the Tui_Elei Account.
The private message asked her what her problem was with eBay. When Victim 1 did not respond, the private messages from the Tui_Elei Account escalated, asking "HELLO!!!!!!"; "WTF ...ru there??"; "im waiting... i don't like waiting"; "WTF whats it goin to take for u to answer me??"; and "I guess im goin to have to get ur attention another way bitch.. ."
On or about August 8, 2019, at approximately 11:00 p.m. (ET), Victim 1's mail inbox was flooded over the course of an hour with dozens of emails and newsletters that she had not signed up for (for example, emails with the subjects "the Communist Party"; "the Satanic Temple"; and "Cat Faeries").
On or about August 10, 2019, Victims 1 and 2 began to receive a series of home deliveries that they had not ordered including a Halloween mask featuring a bloody pig face. Victim 1 received a message from the Tui_Elei Account asking "DO I HAVE UR ATTENTION NOW????"
On August 12,2019, Victim 2 received from Amazon the death-themed…entitled "Grief Diaries: Surviving the Loss of a Spouse.” The Tui_Elei Account continued messaging Victim 1 that day, asking her what her problem was with eBay.
On August 13, 2019, Victim 2 received a voicemail message in response to his purported interest in opening an Adam & Eve sex toys franchise. (Victims 1 and 2 reported to the NPD that Victim 2 had not expressed such interest).
On August 14, 2019, Victims 1 and 2 received a package from Carolina Biological Supply in Burlington, North Carolina that, according to the company, contained fly larvae and live spiders.
On August 14, 2019, Victims 1 and 2 also received a box of cockroaches sent from Dubia Roaches of Wichita, Kansas.
On August 15, 2019, pornography entitled "Hustler: Barely Legal" arrived at the homes of two of the Victims' neighbors; the packages had Victim 2s name on them.
On August 15, 2019, a Cambridge, Massachusetts florist delivered a "sympathy" wreath to the Victims' home, another death-themed delivery.
If you think that sounds like it was ripped from the pages of a Hollywood script, you wouldn't be far off - Baugh was apparently quite the film buff and often held regular mandatory viewings for the analysts.
Baugh instructed his analysts with unusual tactics which included the playing of movies and video clips on a regular basis which they would be required to watch in their conference room.
Presciently he instructed his young analysts on their duty of loyalty. Showing Stephanie and others a clip from “The Wolf of Wall Street,” where federal law enforcement is investigating shady financial deeds but when questioned none of the employees who should have knowledge about the transactions remember anything remaining uncooperative with law enforcement.
At another video clip viewing,Stephanie watched “Meet the Fockers” about a retired C.I.A. agent’s “circle of trust.” Baugh would repeat this phrase to Stephanie and the other analysts frequently. “No one is supposed to know this,” he would tell Stephanie and the analysts about some piece of office gossip. “We’ll keep it in the circle of trust...
...Another mandatory video was from “Billions,” the TV drama about Wall Street ruthlessness. Many times, Stephanie watched a scene in which a billionaire toys with a subordinate he has caught considering a job with a competitor. “You don’t try to be loyal,” the billionaire sneers. “You just are.
An investigator with the FBI Boston Division's Cyber Crimes Squad even said he believed Baugh used the movie Body of Lies as inspiration for the White Knight Strategy.
BAUGH showed the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, Body of Lies, to Zea. In the movie, DiCaprio's character creates a fake terrorist plot that is intended to trick and draw an actual terrorist out of hiding.
BAUGH stated that this was his current thinking regarding the Victims, which I believe was a reference to the White Knight Strategy (i.e., tricking the Victims into helping eBay by creating and then eliminating the harassment campaign).
The messages and deliveries continued until the security team stopped in preparation for the next phase, which would include live surveillance and an attempt to break into the garage to install a GPS tracker on the Steiners' vehicle.
On August 15, 2019, at 11:30p.m., the day BAUGH, HARVILLE, and Zea had arrived in Boston, the three drove the Dodge Caravan to Natick, where BAUGH and HARVILLE approached the Victims' home on foot with the intention of installing the GPS device on the Victims' car.
Zea and Popp, who joined the surveillance by conference call from San Jose monitored the NPD dispatch over the internet to be able to warn of police presence...Although BAUGH and HARVILLE approached the Victims' home, they did not install the GPS that night because the Toyota Rav4 was locked in the Victims' garage.
Upon returning to the hotel, BAUGH, Harville, and Zea ordered room service. HARVILLE discussed breaking into the Victims' garage (using tape and either a paint scraper or putty knife) in order to install the GPS tracker.
The next day, Friday, August 16, 2019, at 3:48 p.m., according to records obtained from a Boston-area hardware store and Apple, HARVILLE purchased: (1)a slotted screwdriver; (2) a 6-in-1 painters' tool; (3) a two-ended catspaw/pry bar; and (4) nitrile (rubber) gloves..
That afternoon, the security team was spotted by David Steiner as they followed him in his car. Unfortunately, his attempt to get a picture of the rental car license plate failed - it was missing a letter, so police were unable to identify the vehicle.
On August 17, Baugh ordered the deliveries to continue with late night visits from emergency plumbers and pizza deliveries, multiple Craigslist ads doxxing the victims' home address and individually advertising a swinger's party and an "everything must go" estate sale and even more increasingly violent and threatening online harassment.
Later that day, the Tui_Elei account posted the Steiners' name and home address publicly on Twitter, asking "Dis UR address???" The doxxing tweet was eventually removed after being reported by multiple accounts who were concerned for the Steiners' safety.
The Steiners barricaded themselves in their home, only venturing out to the grocery store for absolute necessities. On one such trip, David noticed he was again being followed and this time, he made sure he got the full license plate.
The scheme started to unravel as law enforcement put the pieces together, tracing everything back to eBay personnel, despite attempts to cover their tracks and obstruct the investigation.
In the wake of the scandal, eBay performed an internal investigation in an attempt to mitigate their liability in the case. The investigation determined Wenig and Wymer's tone and communications were "inappropriate" but not, they believed, criminal.
Wenig resigned in September 2019 and was allowed to take a $57 million golden parachute on his way out, blaming conflict with the board and activist investors as news of the scandal had not yet been made public.
He still sits on the boards of several companies including Salesforce and GM, as well as running a charitable organization with his wife Cindy, ironically supporting justice system reforms and independent journalism.
Wymer was fired by eBay for cause in September 2019 but landed a new gig a year later as CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Silicon Valley, thanks to his close ties with then San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo - announced on Twitter with his signature "whatever it takes" hashtag.
Both men say their words have been taken out of context or were simply hyperbole.
Oh Huber is still Chief Legal Officer today and, as a result of eBay's internal investigation, the Safety & Security unit was moved to the Legal Department from the Global Operations division.
That unit now reports to eBay Legal VP, Chief of Litigation, who of course reports to the Chief Legal Officer - meaning the entire security apparatus at eBay now resides ultimately under Oh Huber's purview.
Wendy Jones was allowed to continue in her role as SVP Global Ops through December 2020, well into current CEO Jamie Iannone's first year at the helm of the company.
When she departed, she took an $11M+ severance package, in addition to the $11M bonus Wenig had granted her for 2018, $8M of which was a retention bonus.
And eBay founder Pierre Omidyar retired from the board in September 2020, just 3 months after news of the scandal went public.
Where Do The Cases Stand Now?
All of the criminal defendants sentenced so far have begun serving their respective prison terms or probation.
Baugh was sentenced to 57 months, Harville to 24 months, and Popp to 12 months and 1 day. Stockwell and Zea each received two years probation. Cooke was the first to plead guilty and has already done his time, serving ~13 months of an 18 month sentence, from which he was released in October 2022.
Gilbert's sentence is still to be determined, with a status hearing set for March 8.
Baugh also filed a cross-claim in the civil case seeking to hold eBay liable for any damages because, in Baugh's words, he was simply doing the job for which they had hired him and his legal team believes he should be indemnified under CA labor law.
A separate lawsuit against eBay has been filed by ACE Property and Casualty Insurance, arguing they should be released from responsibility to pay out any claims for this matter in light of the guilty pleas.
The Steiners currently have a deadline of March 1, 2023 to enter an amended complaint in the civil matter, where they may have the opportunity to name additional defendants based on information that was entered into evidence in the criminal trials.
On eBay's most recent 10-K filing with the SEC, the company revealed they are facing a probable loss of ~$64M+ and possible criminal liability related to the incident.
And despite the heavy drinking corporate culture at eBay being blamed by both Baugh and ex-security manager Philip Cooke for their "poor judgement" in participating in the cyberstalking and harassment campaign, it appears eBay may still be operating the on campus pub - having renamed it The Sellar in an apparent attempt to distance from Wenig's tarnished legacy.
While the criminal convictions and sentences no doubt bring some sense of relief and justice to the victims, corporate accountability has so far been elusive.
Aside from an apology letter from CEO Jamie Iannone in 2020, eBay has done very little to publicly acknowledge the failures in corporate governance that led to this debacle or take accountability in any meaningful way.
In August 2020, current CEO Jamie Iannone sent an internal message about company ethics in the wake of the scandal going public - telling employees if they "see something, [they] should say something."
He also invited a former colleague, Rob Chesnut, to speak to the company about ethics.
Chesnut ran eBay's Trust & Safety division from March 1999 through September 2008, was Chief Ethics Officer at Airbnb, and is the author of "Intentional Integrity: How Smart Companies Can Lead An Ethical Revolution."
Iannone's memo said, in part :
Since I rejoined eBay earlier this year, and particularly over the last couple of months, the eBay Leadership Team has frequently discussed how openness, honesty, respect and doing business with integrity drives our success...
And, here's the thing...ethics is everyone's responsibility. We all need to see ourselves as being personally accountable for our commitment to doing business ethically. That's why I strongly encourage you to join me, Marie Oh Huber, Chief Legal Officer, and Molly Finn, Chief Compliance Officer in conversation with Rob Chesnut, an eBay alum and highly-regarded ethics and integrity expert.
...Our focus will be on bridging the insights Rob offers in his book with past events here at eBay and the respect he has for our culture and our team.
"We all need to see ourselves as being personally accountable for our commitment to doing business ethically" - I couldn't have said it better myself.
However, eBay's failure to make contact with @unsuckEBAY, despite the significant public attention on the case, and the fact the Steiners are still waiting for something more than a perfunctory PR statement apology over 3 years later calls into serious question the sincerity of eBay's supposed commitment to integrity and ethics.