Daniel from Miami asked Matt Cutts of Google a fun question, which Matt turned around and answered almost a year later in a video response.
The question in detail was:
Matt, Does the good guys still stand a chance? We're a small company that hired an SEO firm that we thought was legit, but destroyed our rankings w/ spam backlinks. We've tried everything but nothing helps. What can a company with good intentions do?
But Matt's video answer was "Can sites do well without using spammy techniques?"
In short, Matt Cutts said that when it comes to spam, then maybe you are not a good guy - or at least he implies that when it comes to evaluating Google's search results.
Google's webmaster team and search quality team does not consider web sites that spam as good guys. The owners might be good people but if they spam or hire someone that spams, it is not a good thing.
Matt of course says, yes, good guys that do not spam can rank over time and do. Good guys that spam won't rank over time as Google blocks more and more spam.
Here is the video:
Kaspar, a former Google webmaster team member, said on Google+ that if you spam, "being sorry for spamming is not enough for ranking well." Ouch.
Forum discussion at Twitter.