Lawsuits continue to pile up against Pilot Flying J

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer | 5/2/2013

Two more class-action lawsuits have been filed against Knoxville-based Pilot Flying J claiming they were victims of the truck stop chain’s alleged rebate fraud scheme.

In Mississippi, truck driver Bruce Taylor has filed a suit, claiming that he was is owed money and has been part of Pilot’s fuel rebate program since 2005.

Edis Trucking Inc. – ETI – of Franksville, WI, has filed a class action complaint against Pilot Flying J. Named defendants in the case include Pilot executives James “Jimmy” Haslam III, Mark Hazelwood, Mitch Steenrod, Scott Wombold, John Freeman and Brian Mosher.

According to court documents, ETI, which has 33 drivers and the same number of power units, was a customer of Pilot Flying J from approximately June 2009 through September or October 2011. The terms of their contract required Pilot Flying J to “credit or refund a certain percentage of ETI’s fuel purchases on a monthly basis.”

In the lawsuit, ETI alleges Pilot Flying J “intentionally, unilaterally and fraudulently reduced and withheld fuel rebates and/or discounts owed to ETI” during that time period.

On April 15, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service raided Pilot Flying J corporate headquarters, seizing computers and documents related to the alleged fuel rebate fraud scheme.

Since the FBI and the IRS launched their criminal investigation, at least five class action lawsuits have been filed against Pilot Flying J. The lawsuits are based on the FBI’s affidavit for a search warrant, now unsealed. In the affidavit, claims were made by former employees and informants cooperating with the FBI that sales staff entered into rebate or discount programs with trucking companies for purchasing a certain volume of fuel each month, but then manually reduced the amounts the companies were owed.

The truck stop chain’s board of directors has now appointed “special independent counsel” to conduct its own internal investigation.

According to the news release issued by Pilot Flying J on May 1, the board has appointed Reid Weingarten of Steptoe and Johnson LLP, who “will lead, oversee and validate an internal investigation of recent federal allegations that Pilot Flying J underpaid rebates on diesel fuel purchases owed to some of its trucking company customers.”

The board has also named Brad Martin, retired chairman and CEO of Saks Inc., a Pilot Flying J board member, to head a special committee that will work with Weingarten and “receive his eventual report.” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, former president of Pilot and currently a major shareholder, once worked for Martin as an executive at Saks.

Related articles and blogs:
Pilot board appoints independent counsel to lead internal investigation
Civil lawsuits mount against Pilot Flying J over alleged fuel rebate scheme
From the LL Blog: Pilot Flying J affidavit reveals possible racism 
Haslam: 'If we owe them money, we will write them a check immediately'
From the LL blog: 'Low hanging fruit'
Georgia trucking company files lawsuit against Pilot Flying J
New details emerge in Pilot Flying J criminal investigation
FBI, IRS investigation focuses on Pilot Flying J customer 'rebate' program

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