eBay Fined $3 Million for Harassing Couple with Live Spiders, a Pig Fetus, and More

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – Online auction giant eBay has been fined $3 million for its involvement in a criminal campaign of harassment against a Massachusetts couple who criticized the company. The settlement comes after eBay employees sent live spiders, cockroaches, a funeral wreath, a bloody pig mask, a book about surviving the loss of a spouse, and a pig fetus to the couple, as reported by federal prosecutors.

The couple, David and Ina Steiner, had a website called EcommerceBytes where they published a newsletter. They sued eBay in 2021, alleging that the company engaged in a coordinated effort to intimidate, threaten, and silence them in order to stifle their reporting on eBay. The complaint listed various alarming actions taken by eBay in their campaign against the Steiners, including falsely accusing EcommerceBytes of being a phishing site and using fake identities to post critical comments in violation of the website’s user agreement.

Seven eBay employees have pleaded guilty to charges related to the harassment campaign, and James Baugh, eBay’s senior director of safety and security, has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison. The Steiners have expressed how the eBay harassment campaign had a “damaging and permanent impact” on them emotionally, psychologically, physically, reputationally, and financially.

Despite the $3 million fine, eBay could avoid payment if it complies with certain conditions set by the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts. The settlement serves as a reminder of the legal and ethical consequences that companies may face for engaging in malicious and criminal behavior.