On Monday the Feds charged six former eBay employees with leading a cyberstalking campaign targeting a blogger critical of the company.
Furthermore, eBay confirmed it terminated the employment of its former Chief Communications Officer (Steve Wymer) and investigate the role its former CEO Devin Wenig had in this affair.
Neither executive was named in the indictments and apparently did not know about the specifics of the actions being taking by the former employees.
However, documents from an affidavit included with the indictment of two employees suggest both executives engaged in inappropriate communications that appear to have led the six employees to engage in the cyberstalking campaign.
The affidavit paints a disturbing sequence of events and raises questions about the culture and mindset at eBay.
This wasn’t a lone wolf employee gone rogue, but six former employees, three of whom were directors and two were managers.
Furthermore, the two leadership executives may not have been directly involved in the alleged criminal activities, but the communications disclosed in the affidavit show a disturbing obsession with attempting to silence critics of the company.
While some may expect new CEO Jamie Iannone to come out and address this situation, he wasn’t there when it happened.
He is not stepping into an easy role. While managing the fallout of this scandal, the eBay Classifieds Group sale is still looming, he has to formulate a plan for the company’s future and re-energize employees to believe in the company, in him, and his leadership team to execute his vision.
Yet, eBay buyers and sellers who saw the news have questions as the details of the cyberstalking campaign are shocking. Jordan Sweetnam, eBay Senior VP and GM North America posted a message addressing the issue and his feelings about it.
Because of an influx in responses from the eBay community, he followed up with a second message thanking the seller community and reassuring them eBay wants feedback, even if it is critical.
Select Quotes From Sweetnam’s First Message
- Every day I wear an eBay t-shirt to work. I’m so proud of the brand and believe in its mission.
- As sellers, I imagine you feel as shocked and saddened as I do.
- My top priority after rejoining eBay as head of North America was to rebuild the seller organization. And thanks to your candid – and often pointed – feedback we’ve made some significant changes.
- I want to be able to tell you that this news won’t be a distraction, but that wouldn’t be true. Like many of my colleagues who try their very best to make eBay a great company, I am angry and frustrated.
- What we do know definitively: these were isolated incidents and not a systemic issue. All employees are very clear on their mission: our community of buyers and sellers are the customer, and you come first.
Select Quotes From Sweetnam’s Follow-Up Message
- There was also one recurring question – that I wanted to address and answer head on: “Can I criticize the company and share what I really think about eBay without fear of retribution?”
- This hit me especially hard. Make no mistake, eBay has always been better when we listen to your feedback.
- eBay will not survive, let alone thrive, if we do not listen to you. If we do not learn from you. So you have my word and my complete commitment: no one who comes forward and is critical of the company will face any sort of discrimination.
- As I said on Facebook yesterday: why anyone at eBay wouldn’t be comfortable with negative feedback is beyond me.
Obviously, actions speak louder than words. But with a new CEO at the helm, there can be hope eBay can address challenges both it and its sellers face in a rapidly changing online commerce market.
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