Sunday, February 7, 2016
Judge Denies Move to Block Pilot Travel's Lawyers
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
An Ohio judge has rejected an attempt by trucking firms to bar Pilot Travel from utilizing a New York law firm to defend itself against rebate fraud charges.
In a two-page order issued Thursday Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge David C. Young ruled that the White and Case law firm can represent Pilot in the ongoing litigation.
The ruling comes in a suit filed in behalf of FST Express and HB Logistics, two firms that charge that Pilot cheated them out of promised fuel rebates.
The suit is one of only two still pending against Pilot following an FBI raid on its headquarters on April 15, 2013.
FST and HB had argued that White and Case lawyers should not be allowed to represent Pilot because the firm only disclosed information at the last minute on corporate details which made it impossible for the truckers to continue to pursue their claims in federal court.
Pilot, however, insisted that it disclosed the new information as soon as company lawyers became aware of it. The company also noted that White and Case had extensive knowledge of the issues in the suit.
Without repeating the details of the opposing positions, Young said he found the Pilot arguments "persuasive," adding that he did not see the need for a hearing on the matter.
In the other remaining rebate suit Wright Transportation is suing Pilot in an Alabama court.
The rebate fraud allegations already have proven costly for Pilot, the nation's largest truck stop firm.
The company paid $84 million to settle a class action suit in Arkansas and it paid $92 million to settle a case with the federal government.
An affidavit filed in federal court in Tennessee shortly after the 2013 raid, detailed a longstanding scheme in which Pilot sales executives secretly reduced rebates promised to truckers. The filing included transcripts of Pilot sales meetings which were secretly recorded by an informant.
Ten former Pilot officials have entered guilty pleas to mail and wire fraud charges in connection with the rebate fraud charges. They have not yet been sentenced.