Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Truckers: Haslam Demanded Testimony Be Sealed
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
The lawyer for two trucking companies charged today that Cleveland Browns owner James A. "Jimmy" Haslam demanded that his testimony about rebate fraud in a family owned company be sealed from public view and kept secret.
The statement followed a daylong closed door deposition in which Haslam was questioned about his knowledge of a rebate fraud scheme which already has cost Pilot Travel more than $175 million.
Stating that he regretted he could not discuss Haslam's testimony, Charles Cooper, the truckers' lawyer, said,"We can't discuss it because Mr. Haslam insisted that his testimony be sealed and therefore shielded from public view."
Haslam and his lawyer, meanwhile, issued a statement contending that the testimony simply reiterated what the truck stop chain owner has been saying all along, that he knew nothing about the rebate fraud against dozens of trucking companies.
The conflicting statements are the latest developments in a suit brought by FST Express and HG Logistics against Pilot in Franklin County court in Ohio.
In his statement Cooper charged that Pilot engaged in massive fraud and estimated the final total would exceed $2 billion. Disputing the claim Haslam testified voluntarily, Cooper said the truck stop executive did so because he was under subpoena.
Denying the claim by Haslam's lawyer that his clients were seeking a windfall, Cooper said the trucking firms were seeking an answer to one question: "How could this massive fraud occur right under Jimmy's nose. We believe it's fair to ask the question and we believe our clients deserve an answer," Cooper stated, adding"If Jimmy Haslam has nothing to hide, we encourage him to instruct his lawyer to make his testimony today public."
Haslam's deposition was taken in Pilot's hangar at the McGee Tyson Airport in Alcoa, Tenn.
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 the 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.