Questions about the role of a key player in the litigation against Pilot Flying J prompted a strong rebuttal from the trucking company group.
Lane Kidd, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association, said in a statement that he created National Trucking Financial Reclamation Services last April to seek justice for trucking companies that allegedly had been defrauded by Pilot Flying J.
National Trucking is one of the litigants that have reached a tentative settlement with Pilot in which they will recoup whatever they are owed from underpaid fuel rebates, plus interest.
“I created an assignment company (National Trucking) which could serve as the plaintiff and which could represent and help the trucking companies who sought justice,” Kidd said in his statement.
“I will receive no remuneration whatsoever,” he said. “All proceeds received by the assignment company will 100% flow directly to those companies who assigned their claims to National Trucking.”
Kidd issued his statement in response to reports that cast doubt on the role of National Trucking.
Some reports referenced a motion filed in Knoxville, Tenn., by several trucking companies charging that National Trucking is a “shell company” that should not have standing in the class action against Pilot Flying J.
“National Trucking is not a trucking company and has never bought a gallon of fuel from Pilot,” the motion says.
Drew McElroy, the Knoxville attorney who filed the motion on behalf of Atlantic Coast Carriers and three other fleets, said he was acting out of concern that National Trucking might not have legitimate standing.
National Trucking may be legitimate but he did not know for sure – he saw smoke but was not sure there was fire, he said.
The issue arises from allegations that Pilot Flying J employees deliberately defrauded trucking company customers out of fuel rebates and discounts they were owed. Details of the alleged fraud were spelled out in an affidavit prepared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain a search warrant for Pilot Flying J facilities.
Last month a federal judge tentatively approved a class-action settlement sought by National Trucking and other carriers. A fairness hearing on the settlement is scheduled in Little Rock, Ark., Nov. 25.
Under the terms of the settlement, Pilot Flying J auditors will determine if, and how much, money is owed to members of the class.
The amount of the payment will be the total of any unpaid rebates and discounts between January 1, 2005, and July 15, 2013, plus 6% interest per year or fraction of a year. Any payment already made will be deducted.
These calculations will be reviewed by an independent, court-appointed auditor. Carriers that believe they were defrauded may seek to join the class, or they may opt out of joining in order to pursue separate legal claims.
Details of the agreement are spelled out at this website.
In related developments, seven Pilot Flying J sales employees have pleaded guilty to charges in the case, and numerous other suits against the company have been filed by other trucking concerns. The FBI investigation still is under way.
On Thursday, a Tennessee judge postponed a decision on a request by the Atlantic Coast Carriers group to depose Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam.
Knox County Circuit Court Judge Harold Wimberly gave Pilot Flying J until next Friday to respond to the request, and said he will meet with attorneys on the matter in the second week of September.
In his statement Kidd said he is setting the record straight due to inaccurate news coverage of the story.
Some of the coverage implied that National Trucking was set up as a sweetheart deal between Pilot Flying J and the trucking companies.
Kidd states that he was not motivated by any relationship with Pilot Flying J or any of its executives, but to protect the trucking companies he represents.
“I acted personally to create the assignment company on behalf of trucking company executives who I knew were interested in recovering their money,” he said in response to a query.
He added that Pilot Flying J did not know in advance of his intent to file the case, and that he has never met Jimmy Haslam.
Also: “To this day, none of the defendants know the identities of the trucking companies who assigned their claims to National Trucking,” he said in his statement.
“These companies would like to remain anonymous at this time, and on behalf of National Trucking I have refused to identify them to anyone, including the defendants.”
Kidd said he could only speculate about the source and purpose of the questions being raised about National Trucking's role.
“I wonder whether these other lawyers who are critical of this wonderful proposed settlement have an ulterior motive, like additional attorney’s fees, which would likely come out of their recovery monies,” he said.