The umpteenth lawsuit has been filed against Pilot Flying J in the wake of a federal investigation into the company going public in mid-April following a raid on the company’s headquarters by the FBI.
Ohio-based FST Express has filed suit in federal court in Columbus claiming that it lost more than $75,000 in a scheme by Pilot Flying J to withhold rebates from fuel purchases to customers.
There is an expectation of more lawsuits because the attorney who filed this latest one said it is the first of several he will file, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer
The case is of one of more than two-dozen that have been filed against the truckstop operator over similar claims. It also means the FST will not take part in a recently negotiated settlement between Pilot Flying J and several companies who earlier filed lawsuits against it.
The settlement calls for Pilot Flying J to pay back these companies everything they feel they are owned plus interest. Those that do not want to be a part of the settlement, and there are several companies that do not, have until Oct. 15 to opt-out. A fairness hearing over it is set for late next month. It’s estimated the settlement could cost Pilot Flying J more than $40 million plus legal fees.
So far seven Pilot Flying J employees have pleaded guilty for their roles in the alleged scheme, but none have been sentenced. At least one of them is accused in the FST Express lawsuit. Other employees with Pilot Flying J have been placed on administrative leave, with one also being named in the FST Express litigation.
Late last month Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam addressed reporters for a little more than 10-minutes at the company’s Knoxville headquarters but did not take questions.
"Since April 15, we have done our best to investigate the allegations made against some members of our diesel fuel sales team, to identify any wrongdoing, and to assure our customers that we will not tolerate that kind of behavior anywhere in our company, and we will make right 100 percent any errors we discover,” he said.
Haslam noted the company is in the final steps of auditing all of its other diesel fuel accounts using a direct discount agreement dating back to 2005. The company expects to finish this process by the end of the year, but stressed that the field audit team found that only a small fraction of Pilot's customers were impacted. So far, the team has audited almost 7,000 diesel fuel sales customers, according to Haslam.
Despite saying the past several months have been "a very humbling and embarrassing time for myself, my family, and for Pilot Flying J,” Haslam has continued to deny the company did anything wrong or that he knew about any alleged impropriety.