Judge in federal lawsuit seeks more info from Pilot about rebate promises

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | Monday, January 12, 2015

A federal judge is asking for more details about what exactly was promised to truckers in Pilot Flying J’s rebate promotion.

U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar made the request during a hearing on Jan. 9 in federal court in Kentucky. The information is expected to be used during the judge’s review of a motion to throw out lawsuits filed by multiple trucking companies alleging they were cheated out of fuel rebates by the nation’s largest truck stop chain.

Attorneys for Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam filed the dismissal motion on Dec. 5, 2014, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, arguing that the complaint filed by attorneys for plaintiffs National Retail Transportation Inc. and Keystone Freight Corp. “fails to state any viable claim against Haslam.”

Plaintiffs accuse the defendants of fraud, breach contract, unjust enrichment, aiding and abetting, engaging in “unconscionable commercial practices” under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, falsely advertising the price of fuel under New Jersey’s advertising regulations, conspiracy to engage in racketeering, conspiracy to commit fraud, and conducting an enterprise through racketeering.

The suit specifically accuses Haslam of knowing about and helping to orchestrate the activities. NRT/KFC refers to the trucking companies, National Retail Transportation Inc. and Keystone Freight Corp.

But those assertions are “unsupported by allegations” in the plaintiff’s lawsuit, according to Haslam’s attorney.

Federal investigators launched an investigation into Pilot’s rebate program based on testimony from informants. The FBI and IRS raided company offices in Knoxville, Tenn., in April 2013, and also searched homes and properties of individuals.

A series of lawsuits followed the raid, as well as the publication of a telling affidavit about the conduct of certain company officials and sales staffers concerning the rebate program.

In the summer of 2014, Pilot Flying J agreed to pay a $92 million penalty as well as $85 million in restitution to 5,000 rebate customers to avoid prosecution.

Individuals remain the subject of separate lawsuits.

Senior Editor David Tanner contributed to this report.

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