Latest Ruling Favors Pilot Flying J in Fuel Rebate Scandalby Jana Ritter - Published: 4/30/2013
After recent news of the FBI raid of Pilot Flying J - the nation's largest truck stop chain, the legal fallout has begun with a Knox County judge ruling in favor of Pilot Flying J and denying a motion for an injunction that would have forced company employees to stop reaching out to clients in the wake of a diesel fuel rebate scandal.
While employee laptops have already been confiscated by federal agents and secretly recorded conversations have been made public and Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam has held three somber press conferences conferences trying to reassure his customers about the integrity of his company, the Knox County Court is allowing Haslam and his employees to continue doing business as usual. Attorney Louis McElroy, one of several lawyers representing Pilot client Atlantic Coast Carriers, Inc., had filed a motion for an injunction and/or a temporary restraining order last week.
The motion sought to keep Pilot employees from making deals with other clients because of the scandal. Three other companies have joined the lawsuit against Pilot Flying J and claim that efforts to restore Pilot's reputation with the trucking industry were interfering with the case and influencing clients, which jeopardized the case pending against the company. Attorneys were in court Monday to argue to a judge whether he should allow the injunction. Robert Bartley Turner, who represents Atlantic Coast Carriers, presented statements first, saying "irreparable harm" had been done to the plaintiff. "If witnesses are influenced either by intent or indirectly, then that has got to stop," Turner said.
Pilot Flying J attorney Albert Harb said the motion was, "based on newspaper accounts and nothing further," and asked the judge to dismiss the request. Harb said that Pilot was doing "exactly what's permissible" by law and that there had been no harm done to witnesses in the case. He also argued that wanting Pilot to stop talking to customers was, "simply not an adequate basis for an injunction."
Turner disagreed, saying the injunction would only maintain the "status quo", meaning Pilot Flying J would continue to do business with customers as they had before the FBI raid and that the injunction would only stop them from making new deals. He also clarified that the request for the injunction would prevent Pilot from reaching out to clients, but that clients who were interested in reaching a settlement could still contact the company.
But ultimately, Knox County Circuit Court Judge Harold Wimberly agreed that the media reports were "insufficient evidence" to approve the motion. The company said through a spokesperson that it was pleased with the judge's decision and said were the motion to be approved, it, "would have crippled Pilot's ability to do business."
The case has captivated the local legal community, white-collar crime experts from across the country, professional football fans and the multi-billion-dollar trucking industry. But its going to be a long wait before rulings on potential criminal charges are heard.