The Daily Pulse:

Pilot Settles Some Lawsuits (But Doesn't Admit Any Wrongdoing)

A day after the 21st lawsuit was filed against Pilot Flying J in conjunction with its manual rebate scheme that defrauded dozens of companies, a court in Arkansas agreed to consolidate the lawsuits and offer a class action settlement. 

This doesn't necessarily mean every single lawsuit will be dropped, or that others can't be brought against the company in the future. But what the class action status does mean is that every single Pilot customer who was defrauded is entitled to the settlement -- a full rebate of the misappropriated funds, plus six percent interest -- whether or not they've filed a lawsuit or not.

What this also doesn't mean is that Pilot (or CEO Jimmy Haslam, or any of his other employees or former employees) are admitting any wrongdoing whatsoever. The settlement states, "Defendants have at all times disputed, and continue to dispute, Plaintiffs' allegations in the lawsuit and maintain that they have defenses to the claims asserted." 

While the timing of the settlement may seem curious, as no indictments have yet been handed down (other than the former Pilot employees who have already pled guilty and are cooperating with authorities), it will have no effect on any criminal charges that may or may not be brought later this year (or early next year, depending on how long the grand jury takes). The prior guilty pleas assure that some people involved in the scheme will definitely be serving jail time, and chances are, they won't be the only ones.

Anyway, here's the Ingram Group's statement on the settlement, on behalf of Pilot:

NEWS RELEASE

July 16, 2013                                                                      

ARKANSAS FEDERAL COURT AGREES TODAY TO CONSOLIDATE, OVERSEE CLASS ACTION CLAIMS AGAINST PILOT FLYING J IN DIESEL FUEL REBATE INQUIRY

PILOT FLYING J CEO JIMMY HASLAM COMMENDS COMPANY AND CLASS ACTION LAWYERS FOR AGREEMENT, WHICH WILL EXPEDITE LEGAL PROCESS BY:
Auditing accounts of all customers who received a rebate and/or discount from Pilot Flying J from 2008 forward.
Paying all customers 100% of any monies owed, with 6% interest, as soon as discrepancies are verified.
Allowing for an independent accountant, approved by the court and paid for by Pilot Flying J, to validate Pilot Flying J's internal audit process.
Offering a right to dispute audit results.
Offering customers the opportunity to opt out, because they do not like the agreement or because they simply do not want to participate in the class action.
Pilot Flying J will pay all costs related to the process of the customer claims and the litigation, which includes audit costs (both internal and external), administrative costs and legal fees, saving customers significant time and money.

BACKGROUND  

On April 22, 2013, one week after federal agents raided Pilot Flying J Headquarters in Knoxville, TN, CEO Jimmy Haslam announced five steps the company had initiated to deal with allegations that some members of the company's sales team had paid some customers less rebates than they were owed.

The first of those steps was to direct Pilot Flying J's entire internal field audit team (25 plus employees) to report to Knoxville to review all of the company's rebate and discount diesel fuel accounts with nearly 5,000 customers and to write checks for any discrepancies found in the customers' favor.

Last Friday, July 12, Haslam said in a letter to customers that the internal field audit team had completed its initial review of all manual rebate customers, who are a focus of the federal investigation, written checks to those manual rebate customers where potential discrepancies in the customer's favor were found, and begun its review of all other customer accounts.

Today, Haslam acknowledged this somewhat unusual court agreement as an additional step to "doing the right thing" and making certain all customers, whose accounts may include a potential discrepancy, are made whole as soon as possible, with interest, with external verification, and without the customer incurring extraordinary legal or investigation expenses.

The agreement is somewhat unusual in that it ensures that all of Pilot Flying J's customers with validated discrepancies in their accounts are paid 100% of what they are potentially owed, plus interest, within the next few months, rather than years later after a long, expensive and drawn out lawsuit.

HASLAM'S STATEMENT

"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."

The full text of the court agreement is attached. 

You can download the court filing and read the full text of the settlement below; WBIR also has a number of the other court documents on its website, should you be so interested.


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