eBay's former director of global resiliency, David Harville, pleaded guilty to conspiring with other eBay executives in a harassment campaign against two critics of the company, according to The Guardian (opens in new tab). eBay is known to us as the place people go to resell GPUs with a 300% markup, but it can be a source for good PC component deals and rare boxed games (opens in new tab)—and, as seen in this shockingly bizarre story, free spiders.
Ina and David Steiner run a news site, EcommerceBytes (opens in new tab), that covers online retailers. The pair caught the attention of eBay executives after publishing some articles critical of the company. A group of former senior and executive-level employees were charged with coordinating a harassment campaign against the couple in June 2020.
The Steiners were allegedly sent boxes of live cockroaches and spiders (opens in new tab), a funeral wreath, and a bloodied pig mask in retaliation for their reporting. The group is also accused of sending pornography addressed for David Steiner to a neighbor, and Harville allegedly traveled to Boston, near the couple's home in Massachusetts, with the intent to install a tracking device on their car.
Five other eBay executives were charged in addition to Harville, including a former senior manager of global intelligence, as well as a former senior manager of "special operations" for the company's global security team. If this is your first time finding out that eBay has a "special operations" branch for its security team, don't worry, you're not alone. Another former executive, James Baugh, pleaded guilty over the plot last month.
In addition to the criminal case brought against these six employees, the Steiners sued eBay and its former CEO, Devin Wenig, over the conspiracy in 2021. Wenig stepped down as CEO in 2019 and has denied any wrongdoing.
This appalling story of corporate malfeasance is all the more surprising because of its lack of any subtlety or good sense. The typical executive's playbook on ruining a normal person's life avoids outright breaking the law personally to do it. Additionally, however cutting the Steiners' reporting may be, these high-level, well-compensated executives had everything to lose and very little to gain by getting their hands dirty and harassing the Steiners.
I guess I just never expected the corporate overlords of the dark future to act like the bad guys from Fargo.