Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Haslam Gives Sworn Testimony in Rebate Suit
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Cleveland Browns owner James A. "Jimmy" Haslam was questioned under oath behind closed doors today about his knowledge of a scheme by sales staffers at the family owned Pilot Travel Centers to cheat truckers out of millions of dollars in promised diesel fuel rebates.
The questioning took place in Pilot's hangar at the McGee Tyson Airport in Alcoa Tenn. Records at the Federal Aviation Administration show four Pilot aircraft, including two Lear Jets, are housed in that hangar.
Following the session, A.B. Culvahouse, one of Haslam's lawyers, said the Pilot executive told the attorneys, what he has stated publicly, that he knew nothing about the rebate scheme.
"Our client openly and truthfully answered all their questions. As Jimmy has said from the beginning he had absolutely no knowledge of any improper conduct related to customer fuel discounts," Culvahouse said in a prepared statement.
"As I have said throughout this ordeal, I knew nothing about the misconduct of some of our former employees," Haslam said, adding that he could not go into further detail at this time.
Haslam's testimony has been sought for months by two trucking firms who filed suit in Franklin County Ohio charging Pilot cheated them out of promised rebates and provided inaccurate information about the price the truck stop chain was actually paying for the fuel.
Haslam had publicly denied any knowledge of the scheme, but ten former sales staffers already have entered guilty pleas to charges related to the scheme. Others face trial on similar charges next year.
Pilot paid nearly $85 million to settle a class action civil suit stemming from the scheme. Another $92 million was paid to settle claims by the federal government.
The Ohio suit was filed by FST Express and HG Logistics. A third suit by an Alabama trucking firm was recently brought back to federal court following a federal appeals court ruling.
In addition to the two Lear Jets, federal records show Pilot owns two Dassault Aviation aircraft.
The location of the deposition was switched to the Pilot hangar at Haslam's request, according to a recent filing in the Ohio suit. It had originally been scheduled at a Knoxville law firm office.