San Jose tech giant eBay has secured a ‘deferred prosecution’ agreement with the US Department of Justice stemming from a 2019 stalking and harassment campaign that shocked the Bay Area and the nation and led to the felony prosecution of seven former employees at last count, and six convictions to date.
The deal includes a $3 million criminal penalty payment and formal admission of ‘all the relevant facts about its conduct’ by employees and contractors – including stalking through interstate travel, stalking through electronic communications services, witness tampering and obstruction of justice, each felony offenses. It also includes three years of corporate compliance monitoring and “extensive enhancements to its compliance program.”
The eBay team targeted a Natick, Massachusetts couple who published a newsletter reporting on issues of interest to eBay sellers, and sought to intimidate and harass the victims through a sustained campaign designed to alter the tone and content of their publication.
The details range from the merely salacious to the horrific. Tactics included “sending anonymous and disturbing deliveries to the victims’ home, including a book on surviving the death of a spouse, a bloody pig mask, a fetal pig and a funeral wreath and live insects; sending private Twitter messages and public tweets criticizing the newsletter’s content and threatening to visit the victims in Natick; and traveling to Natick to surveil the victims and install a GPS tracking device on their car. The harassment also featured Craigslist posts inviting the public for sexual encounters at the victims’ home.” The team later sought to thwart the ensuing investigation and destroyed evidence associated with the case, actions which also were rolled into last month’s settlement.
Notably, the deal lists among acknowledged facts the involvement of San Jose resident and Silicon Vally insider Steve Wymer, who joined eBay in 2019 as chief communications officer to oversee company reputation, external and employee communications and eBay’s global impact program. In the settlement, the company agreed Wymer actively discussed plans relating to the victims, told subordinate staff how to respond to law enforcement, and also deleted relevant texts, according to reports, yet has not faced criminal charges himself. He was fired amidst the scandal and now leads the Boys & Girls Club of Silicon Valley as CEO. Meanwhile seven subordinate eBay employees and contractors have been federally prosecuted for their actions:
- Jim Baugh, former Director of Security and Safety, sentenced to 57 months in prison in September 2022
- David Harville, former Director of Global Resiliency, sentenced to 24 months in prison in September 2022
- Stephanie Popp, former Senior Manager of Global Intelligence, sentenced to 12 months in prison in October 2022
- Philip Cooke, former Senior Manager of Security Operations, sentenced to 18 months in prison and 12 months of home confinement in July 2021
- Stephanie Stockwell and Veronica Zea, a former Manager of Global Intelligence and a contract intelligence analyst, respectively, each sentenced to one year in home confinement in October and November 2022
- Brian Gilbert, former Senior Manager of Security Operations, has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing
While the original case found insufficient evidence to name Wymer directly, his fault and fate related to the event is far from determined, as the victims have filed a civil case set for trial in 2025. The civil case could bring forward new evidence through depositions and testimony from involved parties including the convicted eBay employees and contractors.
Wymer’s reported close ties to San Jose’s former mayor Sam Liccardo and current Mayor Matt Mahan has implications for the region’s 2024 elections as well. With Liccardo running for the Congressional seat of retiring Representative Anna Eshoo and Mahan seeking a four-year extension of his current term, the relationship with Wymer may complicate their political prospects in 2024 and beyond.