Planet13 - 9:18 pm on Sep 19, 2012 (gmt 0)
For what it is worth...
I "turned in" a competitor who was ranking #1 who has over 450 paid directory links.
I was very meticulous. I submitted all 450+ links in a spreadsheet to google.
Results: Four months later, They still rank #1 (and #3 as well). My page, which used to rank #9, was pushed down so far in the index I can't even find it.
Not sure what google is thinking. I sent a couple of re-inclusion requests and they said I was not under any manual penalty, so it is apparently an algorithm thing (panda, penguin, Mercury in retrograde, who knows?).