eBay's Ken Ebanks Steps In As Interim General Counsel As Marie Oh Huber Exits

Liz Morton
Liz Morton


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eBay's current VP & Deputy General Counsel Markets & Privacy Ken Ebanks will be stepping up to take over the role of interim General Counsel as Marie Oh Huber complete's previously announced departure.

Ebanks announced the addition to his existing duties in a post on LinkedIn yesterday, saying his time as GC may be "short and sweet" with no intention of pursuing a full time promotion to the top legal spot at eBay.

Ebanks has been part of the eBay legal team based in Switzerland since 2015 and before that, he was Head of Legal, Amazon Video EU.

Having an interim General Counsel based in the EU could create challenges (or at least some additional traveling expenses) as eBay is currently facing legal issues in the US on multiple fronts - some of which likely contributed to ex-Chief Legal Officer Marie Oh Huber's decision to step down after almost 9 years at the company.

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Oh Huber's continued presence at the company had raised many questions as eBay continues to be mired in litigation regarding the 2019 cyberstalking and harassment of journalists Ina and David Steiner of EcommerceBytes.

The shocking corporate plot sought to change the content of the Steiners' reporting through harassment, intimidation, and a "White Knight Strategy" wherein eBay security personnel hoped to gain their assistance to unmask the identity of Fidomaster/unsuckEBAY, a frequent commenter and source who also sparked the ire of top executives at the company.

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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, Senior Manager of Special Operations Brian Gilbert, and a contracted security analyst Veronica Zea all pleaded guilty and have been sentenced or are awaiting sentencing for their roles in the crimes.

The Steiners have also filed a civil case against the criminal defendants plus ex-CEO Devin Wenig, ex-Communications Chief Steve Wymer, ex-SVP Global Operations Wendy Jones, 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.

While Oh Huber was not named either criminally or civilly in these cases, court documents reveal she engaged in conversations about efforts to get Twitter to "kill" unsuckeBay and was cced on troubling internal correspondence, including Wymer's infamous "Whatever. It. Takes" email.

The email that Wymer sent on August 7, 2019...was written in response to an earlier email that an in-house eBay attorney sent to Wymer, Huber, and Mr. Baugh, about the limited options for addressing...tweets about eBay, which the company believed were connected to, or provoked by, the Newsletter [EcommerceBytes].

The full thread makes clear that Huber and Aaron Johnson in eBay’s legal department requested that Mr. Baugh regularly update the company’s senior executives about “any news/developments on [his] end.”...

...During a lengthy discussion by email about @unsuckebay...Mr. Baugh reported to Wenig, Wymer, and Huber that the security department was working to gather “information regarding [the poster’s] identity and location”.

In the same thread, Wymer mentioned corporate and legal efforts to “get [@unsuckebay] killed.”

Source: USA v. Baugh 1:20-cr-10263 Doc 79

The email chain started with Wenig expressing his desire to see the unsuckEBAY Twitter account shut down - assigning the task to Baugh, with Oh Huber and Wymer copied.

Source: USA v. Baugh 1:20-cr-10263 Doc 79 Exhibits C & D

Wymer confirmed he had previously discussed the issue with Baugh and explored all angles with Twitter but had been unable to get the account killed.

Source: USA v. Baugh 1:20-cr-10263 Doc 79 Exhibits C & D

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 take action.

Source: USA v. Baugh 1:20-cr-10263 Doc 79 Exhibits C & D
Source: USA v. Baugh 1:20-cr-10263 Doc 79 Exhibits C & D

Baugh appeared to be trying to placate his bosses by offering that his team had been investigating for weeks and were close to discovering the identity and location of unsuckEBAY.

Source: USA v. Baugh 1:20-cr-10263 Doc 79 Exhibits C & D

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.

Source: USA v. Baugh 1:20-cr-10263 Doc 79 Exhibits C & D

The next day Wymer expressed he was "utterly vexed" by the situation and that any effort to "solve" the problem should be explored...Whatever. It. Takes.

Source: USA v. Baugh 1:20-cr-10263 Doc 79 Exhibits C & D

As a result of eBay's internal investigation into these events, the Safety & Security unit was moved to the Legal Department from the Global Operations division, putting the entire security apparatus at eBay ultimately under Oh Huber's control.

Shockingly, eBay continues to operate an on-campus pub that was a catalyst to the cyberstalking scandal, despite the obvious liability issues involved in continuing to regularly serve alcohol to employees on company property - especially when a "hard drinking culture" was blamed by multiple defendants for their "poor judgement" in committing federal crimes during the course of their employment.

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eBay has recently entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ accepting criminal liability for the felonious acts of their employees which includes a $3 Million fine and 3 years of enhanced compliance monitoring.

Curiously, the compliance monitoring requirements specifically call out Mergers & Acquisitions due diligence and risk.

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That may indicate authorities and regulators have broader concerns about eBay's operations, such as apparent due diligence and disclosure failures in eBay's acquisition of trading card marketplace TCGPlayer, which led to the formation of the first US labor union in eBay's history and the sudden departure of Chief Accounting Officer Brian Doerger last year.

Regulatory scrutiny could heat up even further since the Responsible Online Commerce Coalition filed an FTC petition last month calling for an investigation into the acquisition, citing “serious concerns about eBay/TCGplayer’s apparently deceptive and anticompetitive conduct” including illegal monopoly maintenance, anticompetitive rollups, overcharging sellers and consumers “junk fees” and competing directly against third party sellers on their own site with on disclosure to those sellers or to consumers.

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In addition to ongoing labor troubles and due diligence concerns, eBay has agreed to a historic $59 Million settlement with the DEA to resolve allegations involving pill presses being sold on the site in violation of the Controlled Substances Act and is involved in ongoing litigation brought by the EPA due to sales of certain pesticides, chemicals, and emissions-control cheat devices.

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Ebanks will certainly have his hands full balancing all of these issues and more during his time as interim General Counsel, but his extensive previous experience in M&A for some very large and impressive Silicon Valley giants will undoubtedly come in handy.

It will be interesting to see who will eventually be tapped to take on these challenges and more to lead eBay Legal into the future through what could prove to be a tumultuous time for the company.

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Liz Morton Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

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!


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