NYT: eBay Employees’ Terror Campaign Against Critics Was Product of Company Culture

In June, Breitbart News reported that six former eBay executives and employees were facing federal charges over allegations that they led a cyberstalking campaign a couple in Natick, Massachusetts, for publishing an online e-commerce newsletter that was critical of eBay.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling stated that the eBay employees harassed the Massachusetts couple with “disturbing deliveries” which included a bloody pig mask, a box of live cockroaches, and a funeral wreath. Anonymous threatening messages were also allegedly sent to the couple, and the eBay employees have been accused of traveling to Massachusetts to conduct “covert surveillance” of the victims.

Lelling stated: “It was a determined, systematic effort of senior employees of a major company to destroy the lives of a couple in Natick, all because they published content company executives didn’t like.”

eBay’s former Director of Safety and Security, James Baugh and former Director of Global Resiliency David Harville were among the six former employees charged this week. Others charged include Stephanie Popp, of San Jose; Stephanie Stockwell of Redwood City, California; Veronica Zea, of San Jose; and Brian Gilbert, of San Jose.

Each of the former employees was charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to tamper with witnesses. The individuals charged were all employed by eBay at the time of their alleged cyberstalking campaign. Popp worked as eBay’s senior manager of global intelligence, Stockwell was the firm’s manager of global intelligence center, Zea was a contractor working as an intelligence analyst and Gilbert was a senior manager of special operations for eBay’s global security team. Gilbert is also a former police captain.

In a recent article, the New York Times delves further into the office culture that resulted in the cyberstalking campaign, focusing on eBay’s former Director of Safety and Security, James Baugh.

The NYT discusses the experience of Vernocia Zea, a 23-year-old new hire at eBay where she was hired as an intelligence operator. Shortly after being hired she was promoted to intelligence analyst and was charged with staying ahead of geopolitical and individual threats. The Times writes:

Her division, Global Security and Resiliency, consisted of dozens of people, including retired police captains and former security consultants. But it was surprisingly intimate. “We’re a family,” James Baugh, the boss, and Stephanie Popp, her immediate supervisor, would say to the analysts. “We’re Mom and Dad.”

True, Dad could be kind of scary. Mr. Baugh was a stocky, middle-aged guy with thinning hair who loved to talk and did not like to be questioned. He would often say he used to work for the C.I.A. Sometimes he said his wife was working for the C.I.A. right now. Once, he found a knife on a barbecue grill on campus. A deranged person could have used it to hurt someone, he told the analysts, and proceeded to stab a chair. It was never removed, a warning for the timid. (Through his lawyer, Mr. Baugh declined to comment.)

Ms. Zea had never worked in an office. Her only real job before this was on the Grizzly roller coaster at California’s Great America amusement park. So she just accepted things. Like the way eBay was a regular film festival. Mr. Baugh would bring the analysts into a conference room and show the scene from “American Gangster” where Denzel Washington coolly executes a man in front of a crowd to make a point. Or a clip from “The Wolf of Wall Street,” where the feds are investigating shady deeds but none of the perpetrators can recall a thing. Or the bit from “Meet the Fockers” about a retired C.I.A. agent’s “circle of trust.”

Two other executives, Devin Wenig the chief executive of eBay, and eBay’s new communications chief Steve Wymer, reportedly became obsessed with criticism of the e-commerce platform.

The two men reportedly focused on Ina and David Steiner, a couple that started a business called EcommerceBytes which tracked trends and policy updates across the industry and became a resource for sellers on a number of platforms from Etsy to Amazon.

After Ina wrote in a post that Wenig’s compensation was $18 million, 152 times what the average worker made, and suggested that this came at the expense of eBay sellers, Wymer texted Wenig a link to the article writing: “We are going to crush this lady.”

Another focus of the executives’ anger was a Twitter user known as “Fidomaster,” a user who claimed that his wife sold on eBay and he felt that the site often unfair to sellers and would tweet about it. Baugh reportedly became convinced that there was a connection between the Steiners and Fidomaster and they were actively working to hurt eBay, Baugh allegedly claimed at one point that Fidomaster may be the Steiner’s alter-ego account.

Eight days after Wenig’s message instructing that Wymer “take her down” in relation to Steiner, a member of eBay’s security team flew across the country to the Steiners’ home and scrawled the word “FIDOMASTER” across their fence. And this was only the beginning of eBay’s retaliation efforts against the couple.

Read more at the New York Times here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com