OK, I'll bite Tester. So why is Google on a holy war against paid links? They can just say waste your money if you want and leave it with that.
Geico is a top brand, but maybe they will not rank for, say 'motorcycle insurance' or "Idaho car insurance" so buying $5000 of links and blog posts can bring them $XX million. It's still cheating, no?
We can argue that link value has diminished relative to other things or that Google can (better) spot paid links but that links don't make or break SERPS, I know it's false.
I wouldn't expect Google to admit that they have been gamed, especially when these stories just keep coming. Google says they haven't but we really don't know. Those that bought the links are #1 and we have legitimate reason, based on what we see and experience to doubt Google's version.
Another thing that needs repeating: If I did it I'd be out for maybe a year to 18 months, these will get a slap in the wrist, or may a 30 day demotion. Even if I had the product in the anchor text.