Pilot Flying J's Math Gets OK

Number-crunching on diesel fuel rebate shortages is accurate, auditor says

Pilot Flying J (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores / Truckstops)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Pilot Flying J Inc. correctly calculated what it owed trucking companies in its fuel rebate program that is the subject of an ongoing federal criminal investigation, according to accounting firm Horne LLP, which examined Pilot's internal audit as a condition of the class-action settlement that the truckstop chain reached with affected customers, reported The Plain Dealer.

Horne rechecked Pilot's work and concluded Pilot accurately identified customers owed money and reimbursed them, adding 6% interest and paying attorneys' fees, as required in the settlement.

Horne said Pilot audited 7,853 accounts active between Jan. 1, 2005 and July 15, 2013.

Horne said Pilot's information technology department designed "recalculation software" to determine the proper pricing for all the accounts that needed to be revised.

"This was an extremely complex program because of the length of time covered, data sources used and pricing information needed to properly compute what the customer's price should have been," Horne said in its court filing cited by the paper.

The $85 million settlement Horne reviewed resolved some but not all of the lawsuits against Pilot, said the report. The company still faces seven lawsuits that have been consolidated in a federal court in Kentucky.

Horne said it took 8,375 hours to complete its oversight of Pilot's audit. Horne auditors were at Pilot headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn., for about 15 weeks, the report said.

"We are pleased Horne confirmed that Pilot has done exactly as promised," Pilot attorney Aubrey Harwell told the newspaper.

Click here to view the full Plain Dealer report.

On April 15, 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (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 customers for contacted diesel fuel purchases. About a dozen participants have pleaded guilty to fraud and are cooperating with the authorities.

In January, a federal judge dismissed racketeering and deceptive trade practices charges against the company.

Ten former Pilot employees have pleaded guilty in the criminal investigation and are cooperating with prosecutors. CEO Jimmy Haslam, owner of the Cleveland Browns, said he had no knowledge of the rebate fraud.

Pilot Flying J has more than 650 retail locations and is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America. Haslam also owns the Cleveland Brown football team.

Part of CSP's 2014 Convenience Top 101 retailers