eBay employees harassed journalists. They were arrested. The man who encouraged them now leads a Silicon Valley charity.
Last year, staff members who worked in “corporate security” at eBay set out to harass a husband-and-wife team who publish a newsletter that criticized the company. Things got ugly in a hurry.
The security staff sent them boxes of live cockroaches, a bloody Halloween mask, a funeral wreath and a book on how to survive the death of a spouse. They spied on the pair, had pizzas delivered to them in the middle of the night and tried to discredit them with neighbors. David Streitfeld, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times, detailed these exploits in a long, colorful story last week.
When federal prosecutors charged six former eBay workers with cyberstalking and witness tampering, the arrests were reported widely and in great detail. Steve Wymer, eBay’s senior vice president, chief communications officer and board chair of eBay’s corporate foundation, was not charged with a crime but the company says it fired him because of his role in the scandal. Published emails made clear that he urged the security team to intimidate David Steiner and his wife, Ina.
“I want her DONE,” Wymer told eBay’s former senior director of safety and security. “She is a biased troll who needs to get BURNED DOWN.”
So why, for goodness sake, was Wymer hired last month as the CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Silicon Valley?
It’s not as if the board of the Boy & Girls Club didn’t know about Wymer’s sordid past.
The nonprofit is “aware of the situation regarding Steve’s former employer,” Kathy Hevland, who chairs the club’s board, told Bloomberg. She added: “A variety of respected community leaders and partners who care deeply about our organization and align with our values strongly endorsed Steve’s appointment to lead the Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley.”
Wymer was fired from eBay when the company became aware of his conduct. He has denied wrongdoing, issuing a statement when the arrests were made, saying: “I would never condone or participate in any such activity.”
The evidence suggests otherwise. To follow the texts and emails, you should know that Devin Wenig was then eBay’s CEO and James Baugh was its security chief. The quotes below are from The Times latest story.:
When Ida Steiner published a story critical of CEO Wenig’s salary,
Mr. Wymer texted a link to Mr. Wenig, adding: “We are going to crush this lady.”
When Steiner wrote a second, critical story, CEO Wenig
texted Mr. Wymer: “If you are ever going to take her down..now is the time.”
“On it,” Mr. Wymer responded. He texted Mr. Baugh. “Hatred is a sin,” wrote Mr. Wymer, the son and grandson of Baptist pastors. “I am very sinful.”
Mr. Baugh signaled that he was ready to escalate. “Amen. I want her DONE,” Mr. Wymer wrote. “She is biased troll who needs to get BURNED DOWN.”
Later, Wymer messaged the security chief to say that critics “have seemingly dedicated their lives to erroneously trashing us.”
Mr. Wymer continued: “I genuinely believe these people are acting out of malice and ANYTHING we can do to solve it must be explored.” He signed off with: “Whatever. It. Takes.”
All this in a career at eBay that lasted about nine months.
Before joining eBay, Wymer held executive jobs at TiVo and NextDoor. He came to Silicon Valley after working in the Washington offices of three U.S. Senators, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Wayne Allard of Colorado and Gordon Smith of Oregon.
This is not to say that people do not deserve second chances, or forgiveness when they err. But Wymer has not publicly apologized, or been accountable to the reporters covering the story.
It’s hard to fathom what the board of the Boys & Girls Club was thinking. This is just the latest reminder, not that we need one, of why boards matter — a lot.
I reached out today to Mr. Wymer and to the Boys & Girls Club and will update this if I hear back.