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Feds probe eBay over Craigslist plunder allegations

Tit-for-tat tat spat goes criminal

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US prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into allegations eBay employees stole confidential information from Craigslist, according to a grand jury subpoena.

The two internet companies have been slugging it out in the civil courts for years, with Craigslist insisting eBay used its stake in the classified ad website to figure out how to launch its own rival service in the US, which it did in 2007.

The subpoena, issued in California, is looking for a load of information and documents, including some regarding eBay founder and chairman Pierre Omidyar, according to Reuters after it obtained a copy of the writ - which was issued on behalf of the US Justice Department.

An eBay UK spokesperson told The Reg today that the company will cooperate in "any inquiry related to disputes between eBay and Craigslist. eBay believes that Craigslist’s allegations against eBay are without merit".

eBay launched its own classified ad site Kijiji.com, later renamed eBayClassifieds.com, in 2007. Craigslist immediately moved to have eBay's representative taken off its board and dilute the online auction house's 28.4 per cent stake in the firm to 24.9 per cent. A lawsuit brought by eBay in Delaware in response came down to a one-all draw, with Craigslist losing the dilution of the stake but winning on sending the board representative packing.

eBay wanted that to be the end of it, but Craigslist has its own suit in a Californian court alleging breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty, among other issues - all hanging on the allegations that eBay misappropriated confidential information from Craigslist to use in launching its own classifieds site. That case is still open.

At the time of publication, Craigslist had not responded to a request for comment. ®

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