Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is again responding to FBI allegations that his company Pilot Flying J short-changed trucking customers on fuel rebates. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports Haslam outlined steps the company will take to investigate and make amends.
Haslam says he’s placing several employees on administrative leave, although he says that doesn’t mean they engaged in rebate fraud, which the FBI has accused Pilot Flying J of doing. (In an earlier press conference, Haslam denied that he had done anything wrong.)
He says the company will bring in an independent investigator to examine Pilot’s rebate system and report back to the board of directors. And he says the company is ending the practice of manually paying rebates -- which became the focus of the federal probe. On top of that, he says he'll hire a compliance officer to examine any possible future complaints.
Addressing a group of reporters in Tennessee, he admitted that the investigation has damaged the company’s standing in the trucking world.
HASLAM: “Eight days ago, I think we had the best relationships, the best trust, in the trucking industry. And we now have the worst. I understand that, I accept responsibility for it. And we’re going to work—we went to work Saturday, I guess you could say, starting to rebuild those relationships.”
Haslam says Pilot will audit its contracts with trucking customers and will reimburse them if it owes them money.
Meanwhile, another customer, Atlantic Coast Carriers, is suing Pilot Flying J, accusing it of withholding rebate money. Mark Tate, one of the attorneys bringing the lawsuit, says despite Haslam’s statement, he’ll still seek damages.
TATE: “Essentially what he did is he caused them all to give him – unwittingly and unwillingly – a loan to keep money in his cash flow and out of theirs…so now he’s going to have own up to it and make right by the people who he profited from.”
An attorney for Pilot Flying J says counsel is reviewing the lawsuit and will defend the company.