Rebate Shortage Checks Don't Stop Pilot Flying J Suits
Company fields website dedicated to investigation
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Even as Pilot Flying J sets up a website to provide information on the ongoing investigation into fuel rebate fraud, three more trucking firms filed lawsuits against the embattled truckstop company last week, one of them that received a reimbursement check from the company earlier in the week.
The Knoxville, Tenn.-based truckstop company has been the subject of intense scrutiny since April 15, when agents of the FBI and the IRS raided its headquarters, and seized documents, emails and computer files. Authorities have accused Pilot Flying J sales staff a scheme to defraud trucking-company customers that buy diesel at its more than 650 truckstops by shorting rebate money it owed them.
A lawsuit filed July 2 by Arko Logistics Inc., Markham, Ill., names not only Pilot Flying J, CEO Jimmy Haslam and top company managers as defendants, but also includes London-based CVC Capital Partners, the first time that a minority shareholder in the company has been targeted in a lawsuit arising from the investigation, reported The Plain Dealer.
The complaint also lists a Pilot Flying J entity called FJ Management, Salt Lake City. Records cited by the newspaper show FJ is also a shareholder in Pilot Flying J.
Pilot Flying J spokesperson Tom Ingram said in a statement provided to the Plain Dealer on Wednesday, "We've been advised by counsel that class-action lawsuits in a matter like this are expected and no surprise. Our counsel will review them as they come and defend them appropriately."
Separately, R&R Transportation, Audubon, Minn., said it received a letter from Pilot Flying J dated July 1 in which the truckstop chain said it had found a "potential discrepancy" in the accounts of R&R, which purchased about 140,000 gallons of fuel from the company each month.
R&R said Pilot Flying J enclosed a check to cover the fuel rebate shortages. It did not disclose the amount, but it apparently was not enough to quell R&R's concern that it got everything it was owed, said the report: The trucking company sued July 3 in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
R&R Transportation raises fraud and racketeering claims in its lawsuit, and seeks to get its complaint certified as a class action that would cover other trucking firms.
The lawsuit cites the FBI affidavit used to search Pilot offices. R&R says the affidavit details systematic cheating of trucking customers who bought diesel fuel from Pilot Flying J sites across the country. The scheme was executed by Haslam and the other defendants to boost corporate profits and executive compensation and lasted for at least eight years, according to R&R's complaint.
R&R said the defendants "regularly taught the fraud scheme" to "all of their sales personnel both in causal or one-on-one mentoring and in formal sales meetings."
And, Townes Trucking, Coffeeville, Miss., sued in federal court in the Southern District of Louisiana, also claiming it was defrauded by Pilot Flying J.
The lawsuits bring to at least 18 the number of complaints filed against Pilot Flying J, said the Plain Dealer.
The company's "Rebate Education" website, http://rebateeducation.pilotflyingj.com, is topped off by "A Message From Pilot Flying J: Pilot Flying J is committed to our customers and wants to provide the most up-to-date and accurate news and information regarding the federal investigation."
The site's Plan & Progress Report lists:
- Audits of customer accounts (stating "on July 1 and 2, we mailed checks to all customers who we found to have irregularities in their account").
- Rebuilding our integrity and restoring customer confidence.
- Elimination of manual rebates.
- Development of chief compliance officer position.
- Appointment of independent special investigator.
The site offers separate pages for press, providing current company press releases, press conference videos, selected press coverage, an FAQ and more; customers, including a contact for trucking customers to have their account audited for discrepancies; and employees.
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.