eBay Sued By Insurance In Cyberstalking Case, Exec Political Ties Revealed

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


EXCLUSIVE: Value Added Resource members-only eBay cyberstalking case document archive - sign up for free access!

UPDATE 1-11-24

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.

eBay Criminally Liable For 2019 Cyberstalking, Will Pay $3 Million Penalty
eBay found criminally liable for 2019 cyberstalking of Ina and David Steiner of Ecommercebytes, will pay $3 million penalty for six felony offenses.

UPDATE 5-10-23

ACE Property and Casualty Insurance has voluntarily dismissed their case against eBay without prejudice, which means they may file the case again at a later date if they choose to do so.

The dismissal comes after eBay and other defendants had requested to delay a decision on the insurance case until after the main civil case brought by plaintiffs Ina and David Steiner of Ecommercebytes is resolved.

UPDATE 1-4-23

The San Jose Spotlight has published more details of Wymer's cozy relationship with city hall, including a timeline and emails from his volunteer consulting for now former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and his continued social ties with newly-elected Mayor Matt Mahan.

Disgraced eBay exec wielded power at San Jose City Hall - San José Spotlight
A disgraced ex-eBay employee helped make high-level decisions for former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo three months after he lost his job at the tech giant for his alleged part in a stalking campaign.

A disgraced ex-eBay employee helped make high-level decisions for former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo three months after he lost his job at the tech giant for his alleged part in a stalking campaign.

Boys and Girls Club Silicon Valley CEO Steve Wymer, who was fired by eBay in September 2019 for his alleged involvement in the harassment scheme, joined Liccardo’s communications team in December that year and worked for the former mayor for at least five months, emails obtained by San José Spotlight show. Wymer was a “volunteer” and wasn’t paid a penny, city officials say, yet he received an official city email address and advised Liccardo on everything from how to respond to media inquiries to who to hire for the mayor’s team, a San José Spotlight investigation has found...

...Wymer lost his job at eBay for allegedly facilitating a harassment campaign against a Massachusetts couple that included sending them disturbing packages with live insects and bloody masks.

San José Spotlight previously revealed how Wymer’s ties with powerful Silicon Valley politicians, including Liccardo, appeared to shield him from criticism over the eBay scandal that made national headlines and potentially helped him land the top job at the nonprofit agency—a sector he had no experience in. The emails further shed light on Wymer’s far-reaching influence over the mayor’s office and city business. He also socializes with newly-elected Mayor Matt Mahan, raising questions about his continued influence at San Jose City Hall.

ACE Property and Casualty Insurance is suing eBay and several former executives, arguing they should be released from responsibility to pay for any judgement or settlement in ongoing civil litigation regarding the 2019 cyberstalking scandal that rocked the company.

eBay Employees Face Sentencing In Cyberstalking - But What About Corporate Accountability?
Ex-eBay employees Harville & Baugh sentenced for cyberstalking but where’s the corporate accountability?

eBay requested coverage for the civil suit under their commercial umbrella liability policies on August 11, 2021, but ACE said it disclaimed coverage to the seven defendants who pled guilty in the criminal cases.

ACE also agreed in April 2022 to investigate the civil case for eBay, ex-CEO Devin Wenig, and ex-Chief Communication Officer Steve Wymer, but is now trying to disclaim coverage of them as well, saying the insurance does not apply to knowing violation of rights of another, material published with knowledge of falsity, and/or criminal acts.

The loss alleged by the Steiners in the civil action was caused by the willful acts of eBay and its former executives. Therefore, pursuant to California Insurance Code Section 533, Ace is not liable under the Ace umbrella policies for such loss.

To make their case, ACE quoted a PowerPoint presentation made by eBay to the U.S. Department of Justice in which the company said it was troubled by the roles Wenig and Wymer played, describing Wymer's conduct as "inexcusable" and recognizing Wenig and Wymer had "contributed significantly to the crimes."

Meanwhile, Wymer's new job as CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Silicon Valley is receiving renewed scrutiny in light of his close political ties, including San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Wymer was appointed to that position a year after being fired from eBay for cause due to his part in the scandal - ironically using his signature "Whatever It Takes" motto in the announcement on Twitter.

Silicon Valley elite defend nonprofit CEO with dark past - San José Spotlight
As the civil case against former eBay executive and longtime San Jose political insider Steve Wymer drags on, some experts are raising concerns about a local nonprofit’s decision to hire him as CEO. One of Wymer’s most powerful political allies, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, is meanwhile defending hi…

Though he has been in the national spotlight for his alleged role in the stalking campaign, Wymer’s ties with powerful local politicos—some of whom continue to defend him—appear to have shielded the embattled executive from serious criticism locally. Now the decision by the Boys & Girls Club board of directors to hire Wymer to lead an organization focused on kids, despite his troubling past, is raising eyebrows.

“I wouldn’t feel comfortable hiring him to do that job if I thought there was a substantial likelihood that he’s done what he’s accused of doing,” said John Sims, a retired law professor at University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. “I would think that would send a message about the organization and its role in the community.”...

...Liccardo claimed to know little about the nationally-reported case against Wymer, his longtime friend and ally, and defended Wymer’s track record at the nonprofit.

“From what I’ve seen, the Boys & Girls Club has dramatically expanded services under his leadership to serve more kids and to provide more of our young people a path to learning and opportunity,” Liccardo told San José Spotlight. “He’s done an extraordinary job.”

Brian Howey of the San Jose Spotlight reports Wymer's years long ties to Liccardo go deep, including campaign donations, vetting of the mayor's staff, and many social engagements.

When Liccardo won the mayor’s race in 2014, longtime communications professional Jayme Ackemann got a call from Liccardo’s friend and former Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino. He invited her to apply for a communications job in Liccardo’s office.

When she showed up to one of many informal interviews, Guardino asked her to interview with Wymer.

“Steve was introduced as the person who is helping to vet the incoming mayor’s staff,” Ackemann told San José Spotlight. “They both characterized themselves to me as people who helped run his campaign and were doing the early vetting of who he should hire in his office.”...

...Campaign finance records show Wymer has donated at least $1,200 to Liccardo’s 2018 mayoral run and at least $1,000 to Mahan’s campaign for mayor this year.

Wymer’s connections almost certainly played a role in his hiring at Boys & Girls Club. In its announcement of Wymer’s new position, both Liccardo and Guardino spoke supportively of the new CEO. When asked whether Wymer should step down as CEO considering the allegations against him, Liccardo said, “You should talk to him about that.”

“I would certainly acknowledge that Matt and the mayor are both friends of mine,” Wymer said, but declined to discuss whether Liccardo’s endorsement influenced his hiring.

I wonder what role those political connections played in the sweetheart tax sharing deal that considers all eBay sales shipped anywhere in California to have taken place in San Jose - allowing the city to collect 1% local sales tax and giving eBay a 30% kickback of anything over $5 Million/year. 🤨

No Strings Attached Tax Deal Shows Depth of eBay-San Jose Ties
Online marketplace eBay Inc’s long-term relationship with its hometown of San Jose, Calif., birthed a tax sharing agreement unlike any other—millions of dollars with no strings attached.

Under the deal, eBay would declare all taxable sales in California as made in San Jose, rather than in the location where the seller or customer is located. The assignment of all of eBay’s California sales to San Jose means the city will receive the full 1 percent increment of the state’s 7.25 percent sales tax instead of dividing those dollars among local governments based on where a sale happened.

The city would keep the first $5 million in local taxes from California sales made through the marketplace platform , and pay eBay 30% of the increased revenue above $5 million in taxes collected on transactions.

Wymer isn't the only one involved in the scandal with eyebrow raising local ties - Security Manager Philip Cooke and Senior Manager Special Operations Brian Gilbert are both retired Santa Clara Police Captains and, despite pleading guilty to federal felony charges, they have retained their $200K+/year SCPD retirement benefits.

A recent discrimination lawsuit against SCPD may possibly have an interesting tie-in to the eBay case as well.

Settlement in Discrimination Lawsuit Against SCPD Chief Delayed at City’s Request - The Silicon Valley Voice
Santa Clara has asked a federal court to delay the final settlement hearing on a discrimination lawsuit brought by an SCPD officer against the police chief.

In 2020, Jacob Malae, a 22-year veteran of the department who is Samoan, was passed over for a promotion to Lieutenant despite being at the top of the promotion list. Police Chief Pat Nikolai told Malae that there had been a complaint that he was “threatening.”

Yet Malae had not been informed of any complaint. Nor had any investigation been done. Nor was there any formal documentation of this complaint — as required by state law...

...There’s a curious point of contact between this case and the 2020 eBay harassment case, where members of eBay’s security team — including two retired Santa Clara police officers, Brian Gilbert and Phil Cooke — conducted a harassment and cyberstalking campaign against Massachusetts publishers of an online business publication that criticized eBay.

Part of the plan was to create a fake “person of interest” to mislead law enforcement. This phony “person of interest” was a Samoan online troll, and was to be linked to gift cards purchased in Santa Clara that financed the harassment campaign. Part of the cover-up plan was lining up a “friendly” in SCPD they could “control.”

Gilbert and Cooke began discussing the cover-up scheme and the fake Samoan “person of interest” in mid-August 2019. The complaint about being “threatening” was made against Malae in September 2019.

In 2020, former City Manager Deanna Santana promised an investigation of whether the police department had been compromised. However, no investigation was ever pursued to anyone’s knowledge.

Stay tuned for ongoing coverage as the civil case continues and don't forget, Value Added Resource members get access to select public court documents from these cases for free!

eBayeBay CyberstalkingSteve WymerLegal

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Liz Morton is a seasoned ecommerce pro with 17 years of online marketplace sales experience, providing commentary, analysis & news about eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify & more at Value Added Resource!