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Pilot Announces Reid Weingarten as "Special Independent Counsel"

In his press conference last week, Jimmy Haslam announced the Pilot Flying J would be hiring its own special investigator to get to the bottom of its fuel rebate scandal, currently under federal investigation.

Now comes the name of the man heading it up, one promised last week to be "the best person in America to come into this situation and oversee and make certain that any and all of our own investigations into these matters are thorough and correct and help us ensure that what happened to this company last week never happens again." His name? Reid Weingarten.

The press release below describes Weingarten as a former attorney for the Department of Justice and a former deputy district attorney for Dauphin County, Penn., better known as the county where Harrisburg, the capitol of that state, resides. But Weingarten's bio on on his law firm's website paints a slightly different story: 

Reid Weingarten is widely recognized as one of the nation's top white-collar criminal defense lawyers. In 2012 Chambers USA gave him a top-tier ranking nationwide in the category Litigation: Trial Lawyers, as well as the rare distinction of a "star" ranking in the Washington category Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations. Chambers also presented him with its sole Award for Excellence in white-collar litigation. In 2011, The National Law Journal named him one of the "Most Influential Lawyers in White-Collar Defense" and selected him for its annual feature on "Winning." Who's Who Legal has named him "International Business Crime Defense Lawyer of the Year" for six consecutive years, noting in 2012 that he was the most highly regarded lawyer in its research and was variously described as "the dean of white-collar criminal defense," "DC's finest trial lawyer," and "utterly superb."

Seems like an interesting choice to lead an "independent" investigation that will report to a board of directors that Pilot won't name. (Except, as the press release indicates, now we can confirm Brad Martin of Saks is still on the board. And as the KNS reported last week, Fred Smith is still on the board too.) Weingarten may be best known for his 2005 defense of WorldCom's Bernie Ebbers, which earned him a profile in the New York Times

UPDATE: He has also defended Roman Polanski and dudes at Goldman Sachs and Enron. In 2002, Weingarten told BusinessWeek, re defending Ebbers and others, ""I feel like I'm in the French Revolution, defending the nobility against the howling mob ... They want to guillotine these people without any evidence." Um, ok.

Anyway, here's the full release:

REID WEINGARTEN ANNOUNCED AS "SPECIAL INDEPENDENT COUNSEL" BY PILOT FLYING J BOARD OF DIRECTORS

The board of directors of Pilot Flying J today announced the appointment of Reid Weingarten, listed earlier this year by the National Law Journal as one of the nation's 100 most influential lawyers, to serve as a "special independent counsel".

In that role, Weingarten will lead, oversee, and validate an internal investigation of recent federal allegations that Pilot Flying J underpaid rebates on diesel fuel purchases owed to some of its trucking company customers.

The board announcement today also named Brad Martin, retired chairman and CEO of Saks, Inc., as the head of a special committee of the board that will work with Weingarten and receive his eventual report.

According to Martin, "We're pleased to have someone with Mr. Weingarten's background, credentials, and reputation take on this assignment. He is the perfect person to help us understand the facts and do the right thing during this difficult period."

Reid Weingarten Bio
Reid Weingarten of Steptoe & Johnson LLP is widely recognized for his legal acumen and distinguished credentials. Weingarten works from Steptoe's Washington and New York offices and has represented individuals and corporations in some of the most high-profile cases in the country. Prior to joining Steptoe & Johnson LLP, he served as a trial attorney for the Public Integrity Section of the US Department of Justice and as a deputy district attorney for Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.

Brad Martin Bio
R. Brad Martin is Chairman of RBM Venture Company, a private investment firm. Martin serves on the Board of Directors of FedEx, First Horizon, Chesapeake Energy, and Dillard's. Martin will become the Interim President of the University of Memphis on June 30 of this year. Martin is the former Chairman & CEO of Saks Incorporated and its predecessor, Proffitt's, Inc., and served as a senior executive in this Fortune 500 firm for nearly 20 years.

The federal government made public its investigation into Pilot Flying J on April 15, 2013. On Sunday, April 21, 2013 the Pilot Flying J board voted to hire special counsel to oversee and validate internal inquiries related to the investigation.

Jimmy Haslam, Pilot Flying J CEO and board member, announced the board's decision in a statement on Monday, April 22, 2013. At the time Haslam said, "Because there is a federal investigation now, we have to take extraordinary steps to do whatever is necessary to repair any damage done to this company's reputation and restore the full integrity on which this company was built.

"Our board will find the best person in America to come into this situation and oversee and make certain that any and all of our own investigations into these matters are thorough and correct and help us ensure that what happened to this company [on April 15, 2013] never happens again."


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