It really is astounding what thin skin some powerful people have. Today we’re learning that six former eBay executives are facing federal charges over a campaign of harassment targeting the authors of a blog about e-commerce companies based in Massachusetts. The site had been critical of eBay and in response these top executives decided they were going to harass the couple who published it. What they resorted to sounds like something out of a Hollywood thriller:
Six former eBay Inc. employees have been charged with waging an extensive campaign to terrorize and intimidate the editor and publisher of an online newsletter with threats and disturbing deliveries to their home, including live spiders and cockroaches, federal authorities said Monday.
Executives were upset about the newsletter’s coverage, so their employees set out to ruin the lives of the couple who ran the website, sending a funeral wreath, bloody pig face Halloween mask and other alarming items to their home, authorities said. The employees also sent pornographic magazines with the husband’s name on it to their neighbor’s house and planned to break into the couple’s garage to install a GPS device on their car, officials said…
In addition to the disturbing deliveries, the employees set up fake social media accounts to send threatening messages to the couple, authorities said. After the bloody pig mask was delivered, the editor received a message saying: “DO I HAVE UR ATTENTION NOW????,” according to court documents. They also posted the couple’s names and address online, advertising things like yard sales and encouraging strangers to knock on the door if they weren’t outside.
Actually, the part about encouraging strangers to show up at the couple’s home is worse than the AP makes it sound.
On August 18 just after midnight, the eBay employees allegedly posted a classified ad on Craigslist claiming to be from the Natick couple inviting “singles, couples and swingers” to their house to party after 10 p.m. every night.
“People were encouraged to knock on the couple’s door, anytime day or night,” said Lelling.
Brian Gilbert, the manager of special operations for eBay’s global security team, even tried to contact the couple sympathetically as all of this was happening in order to present a sympathetic face for the company. He apparently hope that would result in more positive coverage from the couple’s blog. He is one of the six who have now been charged by the feds.
Ebay was notified that it’s employees were up to something in August of 2019 and by September an internal investigation led to the firing of six individuals. Ebay CEO Devin Wenig has not been charged. However, he resigned his position at the company last September over vague and unspecified differences with the company’s board. But according to the Associated Press, Wenig sent a message to his subordinate last August just 30 minutes after a critical article about him appeared on the blog:
A half hour after the article was published, “Executive 1” texted another executive, identified as “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,” according to court documents.
Ebay claims that while that was inappropriate, Wenig had no idea how far his subordinates would go. It sounds like plausible deniability to me. If he didn’t know it was because he didn’t want to know so he couldn’t be held responsible. What exactly did Wenig think his people were going to do when he gave the green light to “take her down?” The AP made an effort to contact him but the person who answered the phone said they weren’t interested in talking.
The strangest part of all of this is that someone pulling down a 7 figure salary was so dialed in to a blog/newsletter published by a couple in Massachusetts. How damaging was this newsletter going to be to a multi-billion dollar business? Certainly not anywhere close to as damaging as the story that is coming out today.
This CNBC story shows images of some of the items that were sent to the couple.