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"We are disappointed in the actions of these employees toward our customers. We assure our customers that our five-step plan to correct any wrongdoing and to make certain these actions do not happen again is ongoing, and that our customers' confidence in the vast majority of our 23,000 team members nationwide remains well-placed," Haslam said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
This statement came on the same day three former employees pleaded guilty to their roles in deceiving customers in the company's fuel rebate program. Kevin Clark, Jay Stinnett and Holly Radford pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and conspiracy in federal court, according to various media reports. The pleas are in exchange for providing information in the case, as CSNews Online reported.
Their pleas were entered three weeks after Regional Sales Director Arnold Ralenkotter and Regional Accounts Representative Ashley Smith Judd became the first to plead guilty to similar charges.
The legal action comes in the wake of an April 15 raid by federal officials on locally based Pilot Flying J's headquarters. One week later, Haslam laid out the following five-point plan of action:
- Pilot Flying J is immediately bringing its field audit team to Knoxville to review all 3,300 contracts with its trucking company customers, not just the few in the federal affidavit, and to proactively address any miscalculations that the company may find.
- The company has placed on administrative leave several members of its diesel fuel sales team and, on an interim basis, it is restructuring that team pending further investigation to get control of that operation and restore confidence to our customers.
- Haslam has directed that all diesel fuel customers be converted to electronic calculation and payment, eliminating future risks of any abuse that might be enabled by manual calculation and payment. This process is expected to be completed by June 30.
- He asked Pilot Flying J's outside counsel to help the company create and staff a position of chief compliance officer to report to the company's general counsel to deal with any similar questions or issues that might come up in the future. Haslam expects to have this position filled within 30 days.
- In a special meeting on April 21, the company's board voted to hire an independent special investigator to oversee and validate all of its internal inquiries related to the federal 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.