Pilot Flying J's Jimmy Haslam, addressing trucking company executives this morning, said he had no knowledge of deliberate fuel rebate shortages to some of the Knoxville truck stop chain's customers. "Absolutely not. I will say absolutely not," Haslam told a capacity audience of hundreds of transportation industry officials. "I was not aware of any of this." Haslam said a review under way by auditors shows that about 250 trucking companies out of 400 that were on a "manual" fuel rebate program may have problems with their rebates. That's out of about 5,000 trucking company customers served by Pilot Flying J. He called the initial assessment "a little fluid" because auditors are still digging into what transpired. Haslam initially was not on the agenda for the two-day seminar held by Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary in Indianapolis. But he accepted the firm's invitation to address trucking officials about claims that Pilot Flying J, the nation's biggest diesel fuel retailer, cheated customers out of rebates on bulk fuel purchases. Scopelitis handles transport-related legal issues exclusively. It collected questions from clients and forwarded 18 to Haslam, all of which he addressed this morning. "I apologize for the actions of our people. And I want to look everyone in the eye and say we'll do everything we can to make things right," Haslam said. The Pilot CEO, who bought a majority share of the Cleveland Browns last year -- and was said then to be a leader expected to be closely involved with the team's operations -- said in a brief interview after his address that "Unfortunately, there were some things that happened a couple of levels below me" at Pilot Flying J that he missed. "It's a blip. It may be a substantial blip. But in no way, shape or form does it affect my ownership of the Browns," he said. During his 40-minute presentation, Haslam answered questions screened by his lawyers. Scopelitis President Gregory Feary said he didn't want to put Haslam in the position of answering on-the-spot questions because of the federal investigation. Feary said he was waiting to see how Pilot Flying J resolved any rebate issues with his trucking company clients, rather than filing a lawsuit. "He's been awfully forthright and candid in his communications," he said. "As long as that continues, we see no need to get into a litigation situation."
Haslam says he had no knowledge of fuel rebate cheating by sales managers
Cleveland Plain Dealer | May 16