eBay to pay $3M over cyberstalking campaign that involved sending fetal pig, live insects to couple

eBay has agreed to pay a $3 million fine in connection with a corporate cyberstalking campaign targeting a Massachusetts couple in 2019. The cyberstalking campaign was conducted by several eBay employees, some of whom were executives, who targeted the couple after they posted a newsletter that was critical of the e-commerce giant. The cyberstalking campaign involved the employees sending the couple a bloody pig mask, a fetal pig, a funeral wreath, live insects and a book on surviving the death of a spouse.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced the fine on Thursday and revealed that the company committed six felonies. eBay was charged with two counts of stalking through interstate travel, two counts of stalking through electronic communications services, one count of witness tampering and one count of obstruction of justice.

eBay admitted that Jim Baugh, eBay’s former senior director of Safety and Security, and six other members of the company’s security team targeted the couple after they published a newsletter that reported on issues of interest to eBay sellers. Baugh and the other employees then executed a harassment campaign with the intent of intimidating the victims into changing the content of the newsletter.

The employees visited the couple’s home and installed a GPS tracking device on their car. They also created ads on Craigslist inviting the public for sexual encounters at the victims’ home. In addition, the employees sent private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the newsletter’s content.

Baugh was sentenced to 57 months in prison in September 2022, while the other six employees were sentenced to varying punishments, ranging from two years in prison to home confinement.

“eBay engaged in absolutely horrific, criminal conduct,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy in a press release. “The company’s employees and contractors involved in this campaign put the victims through pure hell, in a petrifying campaign aimed at silencing their reporting and protecting the eBay brand. We left no stone unturned in our mission to hold accountable every individual who turned the victims’ world upside-down through a never-ending nightmare of menacing and criminal acts.”

In addition to paying the fine, eBay is also required to retain an independent corporate compliance monitor for three years and to make “extensive enhancements to its compliance program.”

eBay said in a press release today that it takes responsibility for the misconduct of the former employees.

“The company’s conduct in 2019 was wrong and reprehensible,” said eBay CEO Jamie Iannone in the press release. “From the moment eBay first learned of the 2019 events, eBay cooperated fully and extensively with law enforcement authorities. We continue to extend our deepest apologies to the Steiners for what they endured. Since these events occurred, new leaders have joined the company and eBay has strengthened its policies, procedures, controls and training.”