Flying J Finally Speaks: The Trucking Fuel Rebate Scandalby Jana Ritter - Published: 5/16/2013
One month after coming under scrutiny for alleged fuel rebate fraud and the publicized raid on Pilot Flying J headquarters, CEO Jimmy Haslam addressed trucking executives in Indianapolis on Thursday. While he denied having any knowledge of a scheme to withhold fuel rebates, Haslam said his short-term goal is to make any wrongs against trucking companies right and to pay back money owed with interest.
Haslam addressed the crowd (with roughly 400 trucking execs in attendance), at a two-day seminar held by Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary -a law firm serving the transportation industry. Held in Indianapolis, the 2013 Scopelitis Transportation Seminar, is an event dedicated to the transportation industry and while Haslam did not take questions directly, the firm collected questions from clients and sent 18 of them to Haslam prior the meeting.
He said there are 5,000 trucking companies involved in contracts with Pilot, and of those only 400 were involved with manual rebates. Of those, 250 saw an adjustment made. "We are going to have a chief compliance officer. I take the blame for us not," said Haslam. But he stressed that he had absolutely no knowledge of any inconsistencies in the program.
The company has hired an external company called FTI to assist with finances, and an internal audit is addressing money owed. Haslam has called the initial assessment of 250 affected customers "a little fluid" because auditors are still digging into what transpired.
"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.
Haslam had already indicated last week that he has been talking to trucking companies since the fuel rebate scandal broke, personally contacting hundreds of them.
In a brief interview after his address, he said that unfortunately, there were some things that happened a couple of levels below him age Pilot Flying J, things that he missed. He said though the company's reputation has been damaged, oil companies continue to work closely with Pilot and the company is assuring customers they will continue to have the same high supply of fuel. While Pilot business is down three percent, Haslam blames that on a shrinking market.
Federal authorities are continuing to investigate whether the Knoxville-based truck stop chain cheated customers out of rebates on large fuel purchases. Pilot Flying J is also facing several legal actions as a result of the FBI and Internal Revenue Service raid on its headquarters on April 15. To date, six lawsuits have been filed.
Pilot Flying J operates more than 650 retail locations and is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America.