How does a major international e-commerce brand respond when several now-former employees have been charged with “terrorizing” critics? Online auction company eBay is offering one current example.
According to various media reports, “six former eBay employees have been charged with waging an extensive campaign to terrorize and intimidate” executives of an online news publication that was critical of the company. These “threats” included messages as well as “weird and disturbing” packages sent to their homes, including live bugs. These specifics came from federal authorities speaking to the media.
According to the investigation, eBay leaders were “upset about the newsletter’s coverage” so some of their team members decided to “ruin the lives” of the people who ran the site. In addition to the live spiders and roaches, the couple received many other “disturbing items” in the mail. In addition, these eBay employees apparently also sent pornographic images with the husband’s name on them to a neighbor, and, again according to media reports, they hatched a plan to break into the home and install a GPS in the couple’s car in order to track their movements.
Massachusetts US Attorney Andrew Lelling summed it up this way: “This was a determined, systematic effort by senior employees of a major company to destroy the lives of a couple all because they published content that company executives didn’t like… For a while, they psychologically devastated these victims… for weeks…”
Now-former eBay leaders charged in the case include James Baugh, director of safety and security; David Harville, director of global resiliency; Stephanie Popp, senior manager of global intelligence; Brian Gilbert, senior manager of special operations; Stephanie Stockwell, manager of global intelligence center; and Veronica Zea, a former contractor and intelligence analyst.
Spokesmen for eBay said, when the company learned about the activity, they “moved quickly to investigate and take appropriate action.”
However, authorities told the media eBay staff “lied to police” about the company’s involvement in the cyberstalking campaign. The company insists it “took the allegations very seriously” and that its internal investigation was part of an “appropriate” response to the allegations being made against the now-former employees.
The facts of this case will come out as it progresses, so it’s likely this will not be the only statements eBay makes about this case or the allegations against the company’s former employees. Meanwhile, it’s very likely executives are concerned about what the defendants may say about what their superiors knew and when they knew it. And, given the bizarre nature of many of the facts of this case, it’s also very likely this story will stay in the news cycle, or at least pop back up from time to time, for as long as the case is working through the courts.