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Escalating Harassment Ends in eBay Settlement

In 2019, David and Ina Steiner were running a newsletter called CommerceBytes. The newsletter reported on a lawsuit by online retailer eBay alleging that its rival Amazon had poached many of its third-party sellers. The Steiners probably knew the story would anger officials at one or both of the tech companies, but had no idea how far they might go to retaliate. As it turns out, they went too far. Way too far.

The intimidating harassment included bizarre and unexpected deliveries of items to the Steiners’ home, including live spiders, cockroaches, a funeral wreath, and a bloody pig mask. U.S. Attorney Josh Levy said, "eBay engaged in absolutely horrific, criminal conduct.”

James Baugh was eBay’s senior director of safety and security at the time. Prosecutors called him the ringleader of the harassment, citing an email where he called Ina Steiner “a biased troll who needs to be burned down.”

The company announced in January it will pay a fine of $3 million to resolve criminal charges levied against several of its employees in connection with a campaign of harassment against the Steiners.

The CEO of eBay, Jamie Iannone, called the employee behavior “wrong and reprehensible.” He went on to say, “since these events occurred, new leaders have joined the company, and eBay has strengthened its policies and training. EBay remains committed to upholding high standards of conduct and ethics and to making things right with the Steiners.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

Uncontrolled anger and a thirst for revenge can lead to many costly mistakes, both in the business world and in a person’s private life.

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