The big tech cartel is run by a series of literally psychopathic mediocrities. It’s not only worse than you think, it’s crazier than you would ever imagine:
Like many people during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, Ina and David Steiner took a hobby and turned it into a business. Ina worked at a publishing company and collected books. David, a video producer, had been going to yard sales since he was a kid. He liked advertising collectibles, antique tools — anything that caught his eye. In 1999, four years after eBay was founded, when the notion of transacting with strangers online was still for the bold, they started a modest website offering advice to buyers.
They called it AuctionBytes, which later morphed into EcommerceBytes. Eventually, by tracking trends and policy updates across the industry, it became a resource for sellers on a number of platforms, from Etsy to Amazon — a kind of trade publication for anyone whose business is auctioning items out of a garage or storage unit. Today, Ina is in her late 50s and does the writing. David is in his early 60s and is the publisher. Neither has spoken to the press since eBay’s alleged plot against them came to light.
EcommerceBytes may not have been well known, but it was required reading at the highest levels of eBay. In early 2019, Ina Steiner shared the news that eBay had hired a new communications chief, Steve Wymer, who would report directly to Wenig.
The two men shared an aggressive streak. Wenig had spent most of his career in East Coast financial media, as a lawyer and executive at Thomson Reuters, and he maintained a certain New York alpha quality. Before working as a technology spokesman, Wymer had spun for three Republican senators in Washington, and he kept up an interest in politics. When Rep. John Lewis tweeted about the civic importance of getting in “good trouble, necessary trouble,” for instance, Wymer replied that he had “another view on how the USA should be governed. My view is equal to your view.”
Publicly, Wenig celebrated eBay’s five community values — among them, “People are basically good” and “We encourage you to treat others the way you want to be treated.” But together, he and Wymer worked to forge a more combative eBay, one that drew less inspiration from the Golden Rule and more from “The Sopranos.” (They did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and eBay would not make any executives available for interviews.)
While neither Wenig nor Wymer have been charged — both have denied involvement in the intimidation campaign — they clearly loathed Ina Steiner. In April 2019, she wrote about the chief executive’s compensation, noting that his haul of $18 million was 152 times what the average worker got, and mildly suggested it was coming at the expense of eBay sellers. After her post was published, Wymer texted a link to Wenig, adding: “We are going to crush this lady.”
Whether Steiner was breaking news about questionable expenditures, such as a pub eBay built on its campus, or marking more innocuous developments, Wenig seemed to find her existence infuriating. On May 31, 2019, she wrote that he had “promised to give sellers greater protection” from fraudulent buyers.
“Shockingly reasonable …” Wymer wrote to Wenig.
“I couldn’t care less what she says,” the CEO responded, adding: “Take her down.”
It’s pretty obvious who are the ticket takers in this story. The two men who were most responsible for the criminal actions are not only not facing criminal charges like their subordinates, they have been parachuted into plum positions elsewhere.
In June, Wenig was reelected to the board of General Motors, a position that pays $317,000 a year. Mary Barra, GM’s chief executive, called the cyberstalking scandal “regrettable” but noted “it didn’t involve any GM business.” Wymer has a new job, as chief executive of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley. The chair of the board said the nonprofit was “aware” of what happened at eBay, but believes Wymer is “a leader with integrity” and was the unanimous choice for the job.