The two questions in my mind are:
First, how could something this horrible happen at such a high level at such a prominent company? I mean, eBay is not some rinky-dinky business run by fly-by-night operators in a shady part of town. We're talking about a well-known publicly traded company that is a component of the S&P 500 with a market capitalization in the tens of billions of dollars. Auntie Tilly would be delighted to hear her niece got a job offer at eBay after college.
Second, is this kind of horrendous antisocial behavior ("we can do whatever we want this side of legal with impunity") representative of behavioral patterns at the higher levels of large, prominent, powerful companies? Or is eBay just an exception, the proverbial bad apple in a basket of mostly good apples? I would hope it's the latter.
>Angered by items that appeared in a e-commerce newsletter, six former employees of eBay sent the publishers, a couple living in Massachusetts, live cockroaches and spiders, pornography, a bloody pigface mask, a preserved pig fetus and a funeral wreath, and attempted to secretly install a tracking device on the couple's car, federal authorities allege in criminal charges unsealed on Monday. 
As the prosecutor said in the NPR article, this is abject psychological terrorism against a random middle-aged blogging couple by eBay's former "senior director of safety and security" and "director of global resilience", among others. You couldn't write this shit.
Someone passes around a blog. Someone else jokes "wouldn't it be funny if we...". Someone else says "Hey, I'm bored, we have loads of cash & free time, sounds like a fun prank!"
Not hard to lose touch with the reality of what one's doing
It happens a lot more than you might expect. Usually it's "just" a bit of sexual harrasment. But the combination of power, arrogance, and unacountability can cause all sorts of things to happen. Like the Suisse spying scandal: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51411640
Or Carlos Ghosn being smuggled out of Japan in an instrument case. Or Shkreli. Or Theranos, Enron, etc. Most boardrooms are boring, but there is a big fiasco every year or so.
I wouldn't trust the Japanese legal system to be fair and uphold justice, even less so in a politicized case like this one.
In my last job I had an opportunity to work very closely with the executive committee of a Fortune 50 company.
Before I started the work I thought "wow, they must be so smart, I'm going to learn so much!". What I did learn is that the people at the top are really no different than the people at the bottom.
Yes, there are some very smart and productive people. But there are also people that make you wonder how they got there.
The fact the eBay CEO decided to harass the crap out of someone is not surprising in the least.
I did consulting work for a few CFOs whom I wouldn’t let near my kids lemonade stand till.
I've also done work at that level, and some people outwardly appeared as sleazeballs, some almost radiated charisma and integrity, but when you got down to it, at the organization i was at, all were evil, backstabbing bastards.
Middle managers saw a lot of that, but tended to be decent people. And line employees never saw that -- middle management shielded them.
Good books to understand these dynamics better:
* Dictator's Handbook.
* Power, by Pfeffer.
Disclaimer, since I got jumped on this before: This refers to big organizations. If you're the CEO of a 5-person startup, this doesn't apply to you.
How could something like this happen? Very easily. Also very often.
And this is one of the lightest cases. Huge multinationals have people defamed, killed, politicians bribed and exhorted, and everything in between...
Usually it happens with several layers, where the CEO or some exec gives a message like "Do what you have to do", and several layers of increasingly thuggish associates get the message.
Remember the movie Insider, how the whistleblower got death threats? In real life many people get worse, including actual beatings and deaths.
Especially in huge companies with subsidies, and factories in the developing world, this is par for the course... from Coca Cola to United Fruit Company to the Nike's of this world...
And god forbid someone stands to hurt some multi-billion deal...
corporations are legally treated like a person. the problem here is (over and over again) that a person might do insane or criminal things that they are then held accountable for, while a company (not a "natural" person) acts as a collective and hence can be as psychopathic in its acts (on behalf of multiple people who get together for that act). e.g. imagine an individual acting as a company: they would always be considered a psychopath (or at least if not criminally insane would be suffering from a mental illness).
it's the group that is allowed to hide behind the singular entity that allows problematic behavior almost by design.
The polite term for this is legal realism - “I am rich and you are not, so most of the time fuck you.” Certainly every executive, by the nature of their salary, their incentives, the world built around them, they perpetuate legal realism to the detriment of legalism or whatever you want to call opinions/moral stances like “you should not harass randos on the Internet.”
It is zero sum for sure. You will never be on the wrong side of justice of a targeted harassment campaign, meaning you as a normal person will never conspire with your coworkers to do that - which is to say, of course this was blessed by eBay, in the same way that gang leaders bless the crimes their minions do - so presumably those laws should be as harsh as possible. Conversely you will sometimes be a landlord in your life, sometimes a tenant, so even in the most cynical rationalist reading we can reason about what justice looks like for both sides, even when it’s just about money.
What then is the punishment for a corporation? In a bull market, little legal action has ever sunk a large cap company (pretty much only lying about cash balances). And you wonder, in a world where investors are buying the stocks of bankrupt companies like Hertz, will Wirecard even get its due? The business, not the person. BP made one of the worst environmental disasters in the world, a normal person will never do that. You will never be on the wrong side of spilling oil in the sea. Some DoJ employee decided what to do, in an afternoon, in a 15 minute meeting after maybe a few phone calls with the Louisiana governor and the president, “the outcome will be, BP will not be shut down.” Then 5 years of litigation parallel reconstructing that determination in the legal system, in a world where you have footage of BP spilling the oil, they did it, what is there to talk about? Lawyers will say a lot, but honesty I’m sick of hearing lawyers points of view on whether or not eBay did something wrong, of course it did, what is the punishment?
In our country punishing a corporation is actuarial work. That is the problem.
Maybe the law academy has an answer, it would be interesting to see “a official, parallel courtroom where poor litigants have a hope of succeeding.” Maybe law school is just minting new lawyers every year who are in denial of how predictive “what side of capitalism are you on?” is in terms of legal outcomes.
This kind of behaviour is rampant, you even have individual resorting to harassment of people who disagree or said something they don't like.
Facebook and twitter revolve around this behaviour, presidents and political figures engage in this behaviour and at least a dictator gained power using it (see duterte in philippines).
Add to this that the larger the corporation and the higher in the hierarchy means the impunity is almost a given (see HSBC laundering scandal, facebook multiple scandals, etc.)
To me the surprise here is that the information got out and that the authorities actually acted on it.
A group of sociopaths decided that their personal gratification was more important than outside factors, and then they got caught.
How many insider threat programs at various firms are really being used to implement systemic discrimination?
I thought it was becoming common knowledge many Silicon Valley campuses and other corporations use an IMSI catcher/Stringray to capture personal cellular communications of its employees...
I am pretty sure none of these people used their corporate issued cell phones...
I would not be surprised if ebay hired a firm to park an IMSI catcher machine close enough to the home of these people.
The reason they felt secure enough to deny these accusations implies they have all done this before.
Now instead suppose my employer gives me an iPhone with a cell plan they are paying for. Now there are more questions - is this a vanilla iPhone or is some kind of tracking software installed on it? Perhaps the phone company will freely give up my browsing history to my employer? I’m a lot less comfortable with this. It feels like my employer has legal authority and technical capability to see a lot of what I’m doing on the phone.
> Also don't do activities on them that are... criminal.
I’d not worried that employer would get me in trouble with the government for criminal activity. My behavior is a little more constrained by worries that somebody at company could be analyzing my browsing history for violations of company policy, which in a worst-case scenario could get me terminated or cause me to face civil litigation, especially if I were to do a startup.
I am not saying anything criminal was discussed on these phones...
If you look for higher paying jobs and discuss the matter on your personal phone with a recruiter during lunch time... Insider Threat programs will report you to your boss and HR.
If you are socially active in your private time and receive a text about a meeting, these activities will be reported to your Insider Threat program and hinder your career.
If you are having an affair (not with any coworkers) and receive a text... This will be tracked by Insider Threat program.
If you get called on your personal phone by a VC firm or competitor for a new position, this will be tracked by Insider Threat program...
If there is a full disclosure upfront, then I don't think it's that bad... But if disclosure is only given to favorites allowing some to modify their behavior... That's horrible
I can believe some companies would use a stringray, but I don’t think the average line manager would be brought into the loop on this. It would be reserved to intelligence operations that never see the light of day, and therefore couldn’t inform low level operations like performance management of the average employee.
One thing I was curious about was how the feds got the data from Apple. I'm guessing because they were eBay-owned phones and eBay gave permission but I don't think it actually says anywhere.
[To say nothing of the fact that, for supposed security people, their operational security was... not good. Just more arrogance I guess.]
How did they get past the lockscreen? Corp phone has some MDM policy that let's them bypass/reset the lock screen?
I wonder how many times similar things like this have happened (maybe even by the same people) but they covered their tracks successfully.
One final note - I'm very impressed with the professionalism and skill of the NPD(the local police department of the victims).
I didn't think so. Because in spite of his race, this man is very valuable to me. Oh, shit. I forgot about the beer. You want one?
How 'bout some ether?
-- Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas
I'm reminded of that 1993 cartoon by Peter Steiner in The New Yorker: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f8/Internet_dog....
If nothing else, it's probably safe to assume that someone like Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page regularly get emails or other messages saying things like "im gunna go to ur house nd kill ur dog and ur hot wife"
Law enforcement doesn't have the resources to investigate every one of these, absent a credible threat of it actually happening, so corporate security / executive protection exists to, well, investigate.
Considering the necessary exposure the president has, he might be even more secure.
Personal security for CEOs (never mind billionaire CEOs) is hardly anything new. If I were Mark, received the amount of hate/threat messages he does, and had a young daughter, I'd do everything short of hiring the 82nd Airborne to follow me around.
Taylor Swift once said "I don't have security to look cool. I have security because people want to take me home and chain me to a pipe in their basement."
TSwift isn't even a billionaire.
For some positions, the ability to carry concealed was mandatory (e.g. the CEO's driver/bodyguard). Related aside: the CEO I'm thinking of wasn't allowed to drive himself in order to avoid any stock hits if they whapped into a kid running into the street after a ball (or what have you).
And typically it was just to gather information to provide to law enforcement, when necessary, and to provide information to our physical security team when we thought there may be some increased risk of a belligerent person trying to come to our premises. Very definitely not to take matters into our own hands and act like a dystopian quasi-paramilitary cabal terrorizing random people with obsessive psychological warfare campaigns. It was the total opposite; we were constantly walking on eggshells to do as little as possible and to defer as much as possible to law enforcement, as we should've been.
Never once did I see the slightest inkling of a desire to go after critics of the company from anyone on our team or from management. We would get some visibility into that from dashboards showing mentions of the company on social media and stuff like that, but we'd just ignore or occasionally chuckle at (or agree with...) any criticism we saw.
I'd like to think this hyper-paranoid, authoritarian, power-tripping attitude (let alone the abject psychopathy and psychosis) isn't too common in corporate security teams, but I have no clue and only have my n = 1 sample to go off of. And maybe the distribution is different for tech companies dedicated to rapid growth/monopolization, compared to more traditional, "boring" companies.
What happened to the targets was appalling. But why why why why do people believe the utter fiction that these companies put out after this happened?
If you are the Board, what the hell are you doing here? This guy was clearly not on the level, why didn't this come up? And why is anyone getting paid near $100m to manage EBay into the ground. As an investor, this makes no sense. The issue is that you have this perpetual circle of utter incompetent human beings on Board spending other people's money.
And if you are the CEO, it doesn't matter if you knew it about or not. He is quite clearly lying but what is most amazing here is that his lie doesn't even explain the behaviour. If you are the CEO, THIS IS YOUR JOB! Take responsibility. Also, he quite clearly was directly responsible for this. You have to be an utter degenerate to know the police have texts of you saying to take someone down, and then tell the media it was nothing to do with you.
This is why I truly despair as an investor though. You are surrounded by people who are utterly and totally incompetent. Boards aren't up to it. Executives aren't up to it. And I am trusting my reputation on them. This is like having to ride a donkey in the Kentucky Derby.
(And btw, the EBay Board is apparently "stacked". Omiydar, the ex-CEO of Bain is Chairman, VC/founders, CEO of Lyft, former Chairman of NBC, CEO of Intel...all people who have mostly made their living acting as agents rather than principals...btw, the head of the Compensation Committee was the guy who is known only for driving Gap into the ground...something of an expert in failure then).
The last SVP of my working org dropped the ball so hard our client walked away from hundreds of millions of dollars in hardware and infrastructure just to be done with it. He got canned then picked up by a similar company inside two months with the same title.
Most executives are chosen because they look like executives, and have a good CV. If you have failed but have an MBA from Harvard, people will give you a pass.
I don't know how you solve this either btw. Part of the problem is people failing but the obvious connected factor is companies hiring poorly. Hiring is where many companies go wrong imo.
I’ll try for an honest existence, thanks much.
This is just a guess, but I've worked at companies where I worried the leadership took the analogy of 'going to war' a little too seriously. Like they didn't get that it was supposed to motivate us to make a better product and win the customer. Not literally go to war.
Does an executive have a killer instinct? Will they go for the jugular? The answer is supposed to be yes - metaphorically. Many executives don't get the 'metaphorical' part, which is one reason to drop that language.
Just work super hard and make a better product. Maneuver in the market to outsmart your competitor. Don't literally try to kill them with a heart attack, or send pig heads to critics writing negatively about your company.
Being serious, some people aren't meant to lead. It is why police need oversight, it is why politicians need oversight...95% of people will fold instantly when put in leadership (that this was triggered by the CEO's wife suggests true fragility). Some can't make decisions, some ego hard...but most people shouldn't be there. It is that simple.
Btw though, I wouldn't call the board great. Again, the Compensation Committee Chair is well-known as one of the worst retail executives of all time (up there with Ron Johnson of JC Penney fame). The board is largely composed of people like the CEO whose only proven ability is being able to bullshit other people about their failure. That is what being a CEO/director usually optimises for.
Everyone fails but these guys don't learn and are delusional about their failure. They are agents. Make the directors invest 50% of their net worth and take all their pay as variable compensation. See how many Wenigs they hire? Zero. Very easy to make bad decisions when you are making $400k/year base (add a bonus) for twenty hours work.
Put a spike in the middle of the steering wheel, you won't get many speeders.
Not sure what's new in the current article.
I can think of multiple examples of agriculture/pharma companies and game publishers engaging in this type of retaliatory harassment, most cases they're not careless enough to get caught.
A good example is what Chevron is doing right now to Steven Donziger, an attorney who won a settlement against them for their polluting in Ecuador:
Also Weinstein’s use of Black Cube:
> Orta has filed one lawsuit and plans to file another, alleging that the NYPD has arrested him several times in retaliation for filming the Garner video. Another lawsuit claims that Rikers Island guards put rat poison in Orta’s food.
no, this has happened throughout time and everywhere, and will, far into the future. it's not just right now, or unique to the web. being perceived a threat (like writing mean things) typically elicits a negative response. it's literally how escalation happens.
that shouldn't be surprising. but what's unacceptable is the unethical, criminal, and grossly disproportionate response.
Is it? I never see stories about it. Can you elaborate?
In fact, most of this blog's coverage was linking to and discussing eBay-related stories from mainstream press like the WSJ. The pure malice of the alleged actions is unfathomable, but how did these senior managers and contractors have the time to even give a shit?
Which just happens to be everyone who is paid less than them.
The solution is to gut executive pay several thousand percent so it is back in line with the rest of the world.
Pure speculation on my part: EcommerceBytes stories were hitting too close to home. Ebay isn't doing well and they decided EcommerceBytes was a front for another company (maybe Amazon) that was trying to hurt eBay's chance of survival.
See https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21308564 and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23316085
They stated they need it to stay in line with the law but they can do that with things like the user's IP. To go that far to insist on getting a specific type of user data is sketchy.
How do current employees feel about this?
I'm in the uk, so no craigslist.
NATO was afraid of a Soviet invasion. They knew in a ground war, the Soviets would take several countries.
So countries created “stay-behind” teams to coordinate resistance in the aftermath of an occupation.
The problem is these teams had nothing to do. So they “made themselves busy” by bothering domestic groups they thought were pro-communist.
It was a big problem in Italy.
These guys have titles like “Director of Global Resilience.” Their job is to keep operations up and running in a catastrophe.
But there was no catastrophe (yet). So they kept themselves busy.
Published (1961) before Kurt Cobain (and myself) was born.
On the other hand, my attempts to search for the word "paranoid" in the book on Amazon turn up nothing. And there is a semi-authoritative page that makes the same claim that you do, saying that the closest he found is a quote about a "persecution complex": https://quoteinvestigator.com/2016/07/09/paranoid/
Do you have more info?
If multiple sources are saying it is, they must be getting the idea from each other.
We can't just disregard all of the claims, we also can't just credulously believe every claim, but they also are numerous enough -- and difficult enough to investigate -- that we also can't feasibly do a thorough investigation of each.
I can say that in my case there's a decent chance that the goal was to drive me to paranoia and/or some form of public display that would get me labeled as a kook.
Essentially, drive someone to the point they go full 'space lizard rant'
Note that there are many more such sites if you choose to go down that particular rabbit hole.