The whole thing just seems a little fishy to me as to why the NYT would question the serps to begin with when Google didn't.
I'm apt to consider that this was a setup. Was it aimed at JCP or were they just a pawn? Maybe the search firm was the targeted recipient of this sabotage campaign?
This will be interesting to watch unfold. I have a feeling that an official statement will come from the search firm and it will read something like this...
After a careful investigation we found one of our third party providers was performing this type of service without our permission. We have discontinued services with those responsible for this.
Happens all the time. Someone is going to take the fall. Who is it going to be?
This whole thing will be forgotten by the time this topic finds it way into the archives. Just like BMW and all the others. I forgot all about the BMW fiasco until it was brought up in the NYT article.
Now, back to the SEO firm in question. Why do you think they would remove their portfolio of clients? Is it possible this same practice is also at play with them? Or was it just a move to protect their clients' innocence?
Alt Attributes? Cache? If they were a smart SEO, they would have had NoArchive in place. Last thing you want is your client list in cache when something like this comes down the pike. Ya, nice job on the Alt Attributes. ;)
Now, if they are following this topic, the SEO firm in question, we should see the NoArchive element come into play here shortly. That's the only way that cache is going to get removed quickly.