As the Nov. 25 fairness hearing deadline looms in the proposed class action settlement involving the nation’s largest truck stop chain, many trucking companies are wondering if this is the best deal for them. The terms of the settlement may exceed $72 million.
Much of the curiosity surrounding the deal involves vague information about a company, National Trucking Financial Reclamation Services LLC of Little Rock, Ark. The company was incorporated just two days before filing its class action complaint in federal court in Little Rock.
As reported by Land Line in late April, Lane Kidd, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association, formed National Trucking on April 22, just days after Pilot’s headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn., were raided and a criminal investigation into its fuel rebate program practices was announced. Kidd’s newly formed LLC is not a trucking company and is not owed money from Pilot, but the companies he represents are owed.
He and the law firm he hired jumped out with the first class-action lawsuit against Pilot on April 24, just nine days after the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation publicly announced its criminal investigation into Pilot’s rebate program.
Other trucking companies then joined the suit, but are not part of National Trucking and are not based in Arkansas.
Recently Kidd provided more insight about the company he formed, describing it as “much like a collections agency.” He said it was designed to help his trucking association members receive the money he says they are owed by Pilot.
“I know these company owners and wanted to help them seek justice and recover their money that Pilot owed them,” he told Land Line.
While he will not disclose the names of the carriers he represents, Kidd told Land Line that all of the unnamed companies are Arkansas-based trucking companies and are also member companies of the Arkansas Trucking Association.
“The company was formed for the specific purse of recovering money for trucking companies,” Kidd wrote in a statement to Land Line. “Owners are reluctant to have the publicity. It’s much like a collections agency and is not uncommon, according to the law firm I retained.”
Kidd says he has not received, and will not receive, a dime from his involvement in the settlement he helped orchestrate.
“I have not been paid by anyone,” Kidd said. “The industry has been and continues to be very good to me.”
Of the approximately $72 million, approximately $55 million will go toward the total principal amount owed to the class, according to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Little Rock, Ark. The remaining $17 million will be used for attorney’s fees, plus administrative costs.
Rachel Albright of The Ingram Group, the public relations firm representing Pilot, told Land Line that there are around 5,500 eligible companies that have been included in the proposed settlement deal.
While some trucking companies have signed on to the proposed deal, other trucking companies have said no deal and still want the option to pursue their own legal action against Pilot.
So far, Albright said the latest number shows as many as 150 trucking companies have opted out of the proposed settlement. She added that “many can be consolidated under the same ownership.”
Nearly 30 lawsuits have been filed in state and federal court against Pilot since the announcement in April that a criminal investigation had been launched into the truck stop chain over an alleged fuel rebate scam.
So far, seven former Pilot sales employees have pleaded guilty to their roles in the alleged scam to defraud trucking companies out of rebates they were owed as part of agreements to purchase a certain volume of fuel from Pilot each month.
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