The company's board of directors appointed 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". Weingarten of Steptoe & Johnson LLP 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, according to the truck stop operator.
The board 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.
The appointments come as three additional lawsuits have been filed against the locally based company, joining the original suit filed by Georgia-based Atlantic Coast Carriers (ACC) and bringing the total number of complaints against Pilot Flying J to four.
Little Rock, Ark.-based National Trucking Financial Reclamation Services filed a complaint in Arkansas Eastern District Court on April 24. The move was followed by a similar filing from Roanoke, Ala.-based W.T.W. Enterprises and its owner Charles E. Winborn in federal court in Alabama. The Alabama company charges that the rebate skimming scheme cost trucking firms in excess of $5 million. The complaint also charges breach of contract and violations of Tennessee's Consumer Protection Act, according to The Tennessean.
A Mississippi truck driver, Bruce Taylor, launched the latest federal lawsuit against the company, filing in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. According to the 21-page complaint filed on his behalf, Taylor was a Pilot Flying J customer since 2005, the newspaper reported.
All four lawsuits stem from an April 15 raid on Pilot Flying J's Knoxville headquarters by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service. A 120-page FBI affidavit filed in connection with the investigation explains the FBI began an investigation into the truck stop operator after receiving a tip from a confidential informant in May 2011 about "fraudulent activity by certain Pilot employees against certain Pilot customers," as CSNews Online previously reported.
Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam said the company is cooperating with federal officials, adding it is taking several steps to address several issues that came to light as a result of the investigation.
Pilot Flying J is a family-owned business that was started by Haslam's father in 1958. The company operates more than 650 retail locations and is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America.