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Natick couple in talks to settle eBay lawsuit over bizarre harassment

Ina and David Steiner were threatened online, sent live spiders and a funeral wreath, and spied on

Ina and David Steiner, a Natick couple who are suing eBay after company employees harassed and stalked them in 2019.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Ina and David Steiner, the Natick couple harassed and stalked by eBay employees in 2019, have begun negotiations to settle their lawsuit against the company and other parties.

The couple publish an online newsletter called EcommerceBytes that drew the ire of top eBay executives, including its former chief executive Devin Wenig. In the summer of 2019, eBay employees sent the Steiners a series of threatening messages and bizarre deliveries before traveling to Natick and spying on the couple.

Seven former eBay employees were charged with conspiracy to commit criminal cyberstalking and witness tampering, and five have pleaded guilty. Wenig was not charged and has said he did not know of or approve the harassment campaign.


The Steiners filed suit against the company, Wenig, and other former employees in July, charging that they had been emotionally and psychologically tortured by the stalking campaign and seeking unspecified damages.

Now, the two sides have entered into settlement negotiations, according to a court filing dated Jan. 29 from the Steiners’ lawyer Rosemary Scapicchio and three eBay attorneys. The filing asked US District Judge Douglas Woodlock to put the legal proceedings on hold for at least 90 days while the talks continue.

“Plaintiffs and eBay have begun in good faith discussions regarding resolving this matter and have agreed to pursue a mediation that may resolve all claims in this action and would moot any motions pending or to be filed in this case,” the lawyers wrote.

The company has every incentive to minimize the bad publicity from the incidents, said Kirk Hanson, senior fellow at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. “This was an incredibly embarrassing incident for eBay,” Hanson said. “Whether it was the fault of some rogue employees or a culture that encouraged them, it still falls on the company to settle and make their penance.”


Scapicchio, the Steiners’ lawyer, did not return a request for comment.

Jack W. Pirozzolo, an attorney for eBay, declined to comment. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

The US attorney’s office, which investigated the case and brought the criminal charges, also declined to comment on the settlement talks.

The harassment started in 2019, according to the criminal charges, after eBay’s then-CEO Wenig complained to subordinates about the Steiners, including a text message referring to Ina Steiner, saying to “take her down.” Company employees threatened the couple in Twitter direct messages and sent deliveries including live spiders, a bloody pig mask, and a funeral wreath, according to federal documents. Then a team of eBay employees traveled to Natick, tried to install a tracking device on the Steiners’ car, and followed them around town.

In an interview with the Globe last year, the couple said they felt besieged and trapped in their own home. “You couldn’t shut the feeling of terror off, there’s just no off switch,” David Steiner said.

The Steiners’ and eBay’s request for a stay in the lawsuit is opposed by one of the defendants, however.

Jim Baugh, eBay’s former senior director of safety and security who allegedly masterminded the stalking campaign, was among the seven former employees charged. But Baugh has not pleaded guilty and his case is headed to trial in May.

Woodlock gave lawyers for Baugh until Friday to file a motion opposing the stay.


Aaron Pressman can be reached at aaron.pressman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @ampressman.