'Reformed' Spam King Joins Nemesis

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Having publicly renounced his role in helping flood the Internet with millions of unsolicited commercial e-mail messages, spam king Sanford Wallace has teamed up with former nemesis, lawyer Pete Wellborn, as an expert consultant and possible witness in two anti-spam suits.


"Spammers will call me a traitor. I'm just being the entrepreneur that I've always been," said Wallace, who is charging Wellborn $200 an hour for his consulting work.


Wellborn, of Hunton & Williams, Atlanta, negotiated a settlement for Internet service provider Earthlink, which resulted in a $2 million judgment against Wallace's company, Cyber Promotions, Philadelphia.


If nothing else, Wallace offers an insider's knowledge of the spam industry. There are estimates that Cyber Promotions was responsible for as much as a third of all unsolicited e-mail.


Wallace's past has some people wondering whether he's truly changed.


"If he really means what he says, that's good news because it sends a message to the other big spammers," said Regina Brady, leader of interactive services at Axciom/Direct Media, Greenwich, CT. "It says, 'What I was doing was totally unethical,' but I wonder if he's truly converted."


No one, however, doubts Wallace's spam savvy.


"Wallace is an asset in any case in which he is hired to find and prosecute a spammer," Wellborn said. "If it is good for my clients and bad for spam, I am all for it."


Sooner or later, Wallace's new incarnation as an aid to the prosecution is likely to pit him against former customers.


"The reason I received such a bad rap was that I allowed customers to do essentially whatever they wanted," he said. "Some old customer are not going to like what I'm doing, but I'm the one who had to foot a $500,000 bill because of their actions."


Wallace said he isn't as bent on putting a lid on unsolicited commercial e-mail as he is at stopping unscrupulous practices often associated with spam, such as forging return addresses.


"That's the kind of stuff that has to stop because then legitimate marketers will be able to go out without being labeled spammers," Wallace said.


The plaintiffs in Wallace's first two cases are European free e-mail service provider Bibliotech Ltd. and Continental Investment Corp., Dallas.
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