Texas Reseller Allegedly Tries To Swipe Other VARs' McAfee Renewal Business

According to e-mail correspondence obtained by CRN, Network Security Advisors (NSA), a Frisco, Texas-based McAfee reseller, allegedly sent an unknown number of e-mails signed by its president, Jason Blaxton, to customers of other McAfee channel partners from as early as May through October 2004.

In one e-mail from Blaxton to a McAfee customer, dated Oct. 4, NSA said its "records show" that the customer's McAfee antivirus license was due for renewal soon and that NSA could quote a lower price for the software, as well as provide other McAfee solutions. NSA identified itself in the message as a McAfee Premier Partner.

After receiving complaints from McAfee partners that another McAfee reseller was trying to scavenge their accounts by contacting customers just before license renewals came due, McAfee terminated NSA's reseller agreement, according to a Nov. 4 e-mail from Kelly Tullos, manager of McAfee's inside channel team in Plano, Texas.

In an e-mail letter from McAfee's legal department to Blaxton, which was obtained by CRN, McAfee said it had "serious concerns about the business practices of Network Security Advisors" and that, despite discussions about the situation, the issue wasn't resolved. As a result, McAfee said it requested its distribution partners to "take all steps necessary to ensure that Network Security Advisors is not sold any further McAfee products" and that it didn't want NSA "representing McAfee in any manner in the marketplace."

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Blaxton couldn't be reached for comment, despite repeated calls.

It remains unclear how NSA obtained the McAfee license renewal information on other VARs' customers. One McAfee solution provider, who requested anonymity, claimed that he recently used marketing development funds to buy advertising resources from an agency that offered a list of McAfee customers and their license renewal dates.

Calls to Tullos asking how NSA obtained the customer information weren't returned. McAfee officials also declined to discuss the matter.

However, Michael Blair, regional director at McAfee, said questions related to the possibility of McAfee selling a customer renewal list should be referred to Tullos. Blair also said he had no recollection of the NSA matter or of concerns expressed by McAfee partners regarding NSA.

But in an Oct. 14 e-mail obtained by CRN, Blair wrote to one McAfee partner angry at NSA, saying he was familiar with the NSA Web site and NSA's behavior. "It turns out you are not the first company to complain about the Web site you sent me. I am investigating now," Blair wrote in the e-mail.

NSA's Web site, www.4networksecurity.com, recently removed a McAfee banner from its main page, according to McAfee partners. When the McAfee banner was on the NSA site, they said, clicking on the banner brought up the home page of Quest Network Solutions, Dallas. An employee at Quest said Blaxton had worked there until May, when "he left to form his own company."

Michael Sullivan, CEO of Quest, said in a phone interview that he knew with "absolute confidence" that the customer information used by Blaxton didn't come from Quest, since no Quest customers were contacted.

In an October interview with CRN, McAfee channel chief David Roberts pledged that the company would halt its direct-sales team's practice of contacting channel partners' customers about license renewals before the partners called on customers.