About 50 companies have opted out of a settlement with Pilot Flying J over fuel rebates. Photo: Evan Lockridge
Tuesday was the deadline for carriers to opt out of a settlement reached in July
between some trucking companies and Pilot Flying J over allegations the truckstop chain cheated customers out of fuel purchase rebates. About 50 of the truckstops’s 6,000 customers said they want no part of the agreement.
According to the Associated Press, Knoxville attorney Drew McElroy, who has filed suits against Pilot Flying J on behalf of seven clients, says the main problem he sees with the settlement is that it doesn't allow his clients to collect punitive damages against what he called “bad actors.”
"For someone to treat their customers the way these have been treated here and then just say, 'Here's your money back' — we don't think that's a full measure of compensation," he was quoted as saying by AP.
In contrast, attorney David Guin of Birmingham, Ala., who represents a trucking company that decided to accept the settlement, says he is confident his clients will get what they are owed, AP reports.
Customers who don’t opt out will be automatically included in the settlement. Under the settlement, Flying J will pay back customers the full amount they are owed, along with interest. Those who are not included in the settlement will continue their litigation.
On April 15 federal agents raided Pilot Flying J headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn., as part of an investigation into whether the company cheated trucking customers. Since that time seven company employees have pleaded guilty for their roles, but have yet to be sentenced. Others have been fired or put on administrative leave.
A criminal investigation continues, where some have reportedly pleaded guilty. Some employees have been given immunity by federal prosecutors for agreeing to cooperate in the investigation, and there have been recent hints that more indictments could be on the way.
CEO Jimmy Haslam continues to adamantly deny he knew anything about the alleged scheme or any wrongdoing by the company. He also has said Pilot Flying J wants to amicably resolve any situation with customers who feel they are owed money.
Since the raid, more than two dozen lawsuits have been filed by trucking operations against Pilot Flying J, some of them after the settlement was reached. The deal received tentative approval from a judge. A fairness hearing is set for late November.
It’s estimated if the settlement is approved, it will cost the nation’s largest diesel retailer at least $40 million, plus legal fees.