LITTLE ROCK, Tenn. (WVLT) -- KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)--Pilot Flying J wants to settle outside court with 8 trucking companies that are filing suit against Pilot. The company made the motion to settle in an Arkansas Federal Courtroom Tuesday morning. Pilot wants to resolve the civil suits ahead of the criminal case. CEO and Owner Jimmy Haslam is offering to completely reimburse trucking companies and that's not all.
Here are some of the terms of the proposed settlement. Haslam vows to audit all accounts of trucking companies who received any rebates from 2008 forward. He promises to pay all customers 100 percent of any money owed, with 6 percent interest, pay all legal and other fees. Plus, allow an independent accountant to validate Pilot's internal audit process. The plan also offers customers the ability to opt out if they want to.
The investigation all started on tax day this year, when feds raided pilot's headquarters on Lonas drive in Knoxville. After that, we learned the FBI was looking into fraud allegations. According to documents, Pilot sales managers illegally withheld part of the rebates from "unsophisticated trucking companies".
Jimmy Haslam released a statement today saying, "I commend all of these individuals for their hard work and dedication to ensuring our customers are paid back quickly and fairly for any potential discrepancies found in their accounts."
The same federal judge will give his final approval of the settlement in November.
A federal judge has given his preliminary approval to a settlement between Pilot Flying J and eight plaintiffs who were part of a class action suit against the Knoxville-based truck stop giant.
The National Trucking Financial Reclamation Services, LLC.; Bruce Taylor; Edis Trucking; Jerry Floyd; Mike Campbell; Paul Otto; Townes Trucking, Inc.; and R&R Transportation, Inc. called the agreement an "extraordinarily good result."
“This is an unfortunate time for our customers and our company, but we remain committed to making things 100% right with our customers, to put systems in place to help ensure this does not happen again, and to re-earn our customers trust," Haslam said in a statement released shortly after the settlement was announced (Full text below)
The terms of the settlement state Pilot will conduct an internal audit and will repay, with interest everything owed to each plaintiff. An independent accountant will confirm the audit. Pilot will also pay all fees associated with the case as well as an incentive award.
All of the plaintiffs will need to sign onto the agreement officially by the time they appear in court in November. That's when the judge is expect to give his final approval.
Pilot Flying J, the country's largest diesel retailer, short-changed is accused of trucking companies to boost profits and commissions. Federal agents raided its headquarters on April 15.
Pilot is run by Browns' owner Jimmy Haslam, the brother of Gov. Bill Haslam. Jimmy Haslam has denied any personal wrongdoing.
Full Statement from Jimmy Haslam
“Today in the United States District Court, Western Division of the Eastern District of Arkansas, our attorneys, working together with attorneys for eight of the companies that have filed class action lawsuits against Pilot Flying J, agreed to a plan to pay all customers who join the class 100% of the money they are owed, plus 6% interest, as soon as possible and without the need for unnecessary time in court, plaintiff legal fees or out of pocket costs. I commend all of these individuals for their hard work and dedication to ensuring our customers are paid back quickly and fairly for any potential discrepancies found in their accounts.
“Customers who already received checks with interest based on our internal field audit team’s ongoing review will receive supplemental checks for any additional interest not included in the original calculation. In addition, all of our customers, as defined by the court agreement, may join the class and have a free independent accountant, approved by the court, validate Pilot Flying J’s internal audit process of the customer’s account.
“In addition, Pilot Flying J will pay all court, administrative, accounting, mailing, processing and legal costs incurred as part of the procedure approved by the court today, ensuring our customers will get every dollar they are owed, with interest, without protracted legal battles, time delays or costly legal expenses.
“Under the court agreement, Pilot Flying J will distribute a statement to all of its customers and to the media as part of notice provision to ensure all of our customers have the opportunity to resolve any concerns they may have in this fashion. We also will make available to attorneys for the class a mailing of all of our customers.
“Customers who are satisfied with their accounts may continue with business as usual, and we assure them our utmost attention, 24-7, 365 days a year, serving them and their drivers. Customers who are concerned about their accounts may join the class by simply doing nothing. Their accounts will be audited free to the customer. Finally, customers have the right to opt out and pursue their own legal objectives at their own expense, which can be significant.
"This is an unfortunate time for our customers and our company, but we remain committed to making things 100% right with our customers, to put systems in place to help ensure this does not happen again, and to re-earn our customers trust.”