EBay’s former CEO denies any link to the cyberstalking of a blogger. But he did want to create a competitor to challenge her.
Former eBay CEO Devin Wenig. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Devin Wenig says he had “no knowledge, no private understanding, no tacit approval” of the harassment campaign.
Earlier this week, reports emerged of a very strange corporate scandal: Federal authorities charged several former eBay corporate security employees for their roles in a cyberstalking campaign targeting a blogger that involved Twitter harassment and mailing insects to her house. Now, former eBay CEO Devin Wenig, who led the company at the time, tells Recode that he was shocked to hear details of the campaign this week and that he gave “no direction” nor “tacit approval” for it.
But the former eBay chief executive was at times so frustrated with coverage from the news website in question that he on several occasions floated the idea internally that eBay should create its own competitor publication, multiple former eBay insiders told Recode.
“On Monday, I read the charges along with everyone else, and was shocked and outraged,” Wenig told Recode in a statement. “It is important for me to reiterate, and an independent investigation confirmed, that I had nothing to do with and no knowledge of the activities alleged to have occurred. There was no direction, no knowledge, no private understanding, no tacit approval. Ever.”
Still, the fact that eBay’s security team allegedly felt comfortable executing such a campaign against the blogger and her husband suggests that the leadership team had, at best, problematic blind spots.
On Monday, the US Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts revealed a case against six former eBay workers who allegedly waged an “aggressive cyberstalking campaign” against the husband-and-wife team that runs EcommerceBytes, which reports business news geared toward online merchants who sell on eBay and Amazon. The site, and some of its readers who post comments below articles, were often critical of eBay under Wenig’s leadership and sometimes of Wenig himself.
Authorities accuse the former eBay workers of a wide range of malevolent activities, including shipping them “a funeral wreath, a book on surviving the loss of a spouse, and pornography — the last of these addressed to the newsletter’s publisher but sent to his neighbors’ homes.” The group, led by former eBay security head James Baugh, also surveilled the couple and considered breaking into their garage to place a GPS tracking device on their vehicle.
In court documents, copies of text messages showed Wenig twice instructing his communications chief, Steve Wymer, to “take her down,” referring to the EcommerceBytes owner and writer Ina Steiner. On Thursday, Wenig told Recode in a statement that those texts “have been wildly misinterpreted and taken completely out of context in some media reports.”
“I was speaking off the cuff to a communications executive about my desire to be more aggressive in our PR effort; never in my...