Lawsuits Widen Against Pilot Flying J Amid Other New Concerns
July 08, 2013
Three more lawsuits have been filed against the truckstop chain Pilot Flying J over claims it shortchanged customers out of money they were due in the form of rebates from fuel purchases.
Minnesota-based R&R Transportation filed its case in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis after it received a rebate check from Pilot Flying J to cover rebate fuel shortages, according to published reports. Pilot Flying J said it sent the check after it found "a potential discrepancy” in the trucking company’s account.
While the trucking firm has not disclosed how much it was shortchanged, the filing of a lawsuit would seem to indicate that R&R doesn't believe it received everything it was due for purchasing close to an average of 150,000 gallons of fuel each month.
The suit, like many of the more than one dozen that have been filed in the past three months, seeks class action status to represent any other trucking operations that were cheated.
In mid-April agents from the FBI and IRS served a series of search warrants on the Knoxville headquarters of Pilot Flying J and the homes of some company executives as part of a ongoing investigation into the company. Shortly after, the FBI released the affidavit used to obtain the search warrants. That affidavit has been referenced in most of the suits filed against the company.
Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam has denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the alleged scheme to boost company profits, but says the company will work with any customers who feel they have been wronged. Since the raid, five Pilot Flying J employees have pleaded guilty to charges for their involvement with some promising to help investigators.
Mississippi-based Townes Trucking has also filed suit against Pilot Flying J in federal court in Louisiana, claiming it was also a victim of fraud.
Also, Illinois-based Akra Logistics has filed a lawsuit not only against Pilot Flying J, but also against its minority partner CVC Capital Partners, along with FJ Management, the latter also being an equity owner in Pilot Flying J.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper reports the Akra Logistics suit also seeks class action status and charges racketeering, which would allow for the tripling of any damage awards against Pilot Flying J.
One CVC advisor is R. Brad Martin, who is also a Pilot Flying J board member, and is heading up an internal investigation by the truckstop operator about alleged fuel shortages
This suits follow reports that Pilot Flying J is $4 billion in debt. However, earlier reports from some news organizations that the company’s credit rating had been lowered proved to be untrue. Rather it is believed Pilot Flying J in danger of having it lowered, though the company insists it is still in strong financial shape.
Shortly before the Independence Day holiday, Haslam sold the Tennessee Smokies minor league baseball team, but said it was not related to the ongoing problems at Pilot Flying J.
Jimmy Haslam is the brother of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, where Pilot Flying J is based. Gov. Haslam earlier said he has not been involved in the affairs of Pilot Flying J for many years but does hold a stake in the company that’s controlled as part of a blind trust. A new story by the Associated Press points out this week the governor is finding it increasing difficult to keep politics and his family’s business separate.
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