Judge Sends Pilot Flying J Suit to Mediation
Some plaintiffs object to order
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A federal judge has ordered mediation in a consolidated lawsuit brought by trucking companies against truckstop chain Pilot Flying J Inc. over alleged diesel fuel rebate fraud, reported The Knoxville News Sentinel.
On April 15, 2013, the FBI and IRS raided Pilot Flying J's Knoxville headquarters, beginning an investigation into an alleged scheme perpetrated by some members of the company's sales staff to withhold rebates owed to trucking company customers for contacted diesel fuel purchases.
About a dozen participants have pleaded guilty to fraud and are cooperating with the authorities. Several executives have been fired.
CEO Jimmy Haslam, owner of the Cleveland Brown football team, has denied any knowledge of the rebate scheme.
A federal judge dismissed racketeering and deceptive trade practices charges against the company, and Pilot Flying J has reached an understanding with the U.S. Attorney's office, Eastern District of Tennessee, and the U. S. Department of Justice, that the company will not be prosecuted for fraud.
Pilot Flying J reached an $85 million settlement with hundreds of trucking customers who were affected by the alleged fraud; however, more than a dozen companies are pursuing lawsuits outside of the settlement.
Their cases were consolidated in federal court in Kentucky, where U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar on July 31 ordered the dispute to mediation, the Sentinel reported.
Thapar advised the attorneys for the trucking companies and Pilot Flying J that he was referring the matter to a magistrate. His one-page order did not lay out his reasoning for taking that step, according to the report.
Some plaintiffs' attorneys have objected to the mediation order, said the report, saying they wanted to take discovery first to determine what was stolen from their clients.
A Pilot Flying J attorney disagreed, saying an audit provided by the company gives an "absolutely full picture" of the damages, the report said.
Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Flying J operates 650 travel centers and travel plazas.