Many Pilot Flying J Customers Opting Out of Settlement
About 50 of 6,000 clients choosing not to participate in rebate fraud fix
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A speedy settlement by some companies with Pilot Flying J won't put a quick end to lawsuits from customers that were cheated out of discounts and rebates. Pilot Flying J attorney Aubrey Harwell said on Tuesday that approximately 50 of Pilot's more than 6,000 customers have opted out of a settlement, reported the Associated Press.
Some are pursuing their own lawsuits, saying they will seek an award for damages from the nation's largest diesel retailer.
Tuesday was the opt-out deadline, but the total number of customers that chose not to participate in the settlement may not be known for a few days, said the report. Customers who don't opt out are automatically included.
On April 15, federal agents raided Pilot Flying J's Knoxville headquarters. An affidavit in the case revealed that the company had systematically cheated customers in a scheme that was well known among the sales staff.
So far, seven Pilot sales employees have pleaded guilty to defrauding customers. Another two have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for immunity from prosecution. A criminal investigation is ongoing.
Since April, several of Pilot Flying J's customers have sued over the withheld rebates and discounts. A group of them reached a class-action settlement with the company in July, just three months after the raid. It promises to repay any money owed with interest.
Harwell said Pilot Flying J thinks the settlement is fair. He said that is evidenced by the small percentage of customers choosing to opt out of the settlement.
Knoxville attorney Drew McElroy has filed suits against Pilot Flying J for seven clients and said a few others have decided not to accept the settlement in order to keep their options open.
McElroy said the main problem he sees with the settlement is that it doesn't allow customers to collect punitive damages.
"We've got some bad actors here," he told AP. "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."
Attorney David Guin, of Birmingham, Ala., represents a trucking company that decided to accept the settlement. He told the news agency that he met with the accounting firm that is checking Pilot's figures and is confident his clients will get what they are owed.
Jimmy Haslam has denied any personal wrongdoing.
Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Flying J is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America. Its network provides customers with access to more than 60,000 parking spaces for trucks, more than 4,400 showers and more than 4,000 diesel lanes. Pilot Logistics Services is one of the largest independent energy logistics companies in North America, selling and distributing more than 1.3 billion gallons of refined petroleum products and serving more than 15,000 customers. Together, Pilot Flying J and Pilot Logistics Services generate sales of approximately nine billion gallons of petroleum annually.