Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam talks to trucking execs

Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam talks to trucking execs about rebate scheme

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"We are going to have a chief compliance officer. I take the blame for us not," said Haslam. "We are going to have a chief compliance officer. I take the blame for us not," said Haslam.

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WATE) - Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam told a gathering of trucking company executives in Indianapolis Thursday he had no knowledge of a scheme to withhold fuel rebates.

Haslam was in Indianapolis for the 2013 Scopelitis Transportation Seminar, an event dedicated to the transportation industry. Roughly 400 trucking industry executives were at the event.

Though the event had been in the works for the last year, it was only two weeks ago that Haslam was named as first guest speaker.

The event's organizers said Haslam wanted to personally address the trucking industry and brief them on the status of the investigation.

"It was humbling. It's embarrassing. We don't talk that way. We don't act that way," he told audience members.

Speaking to a crowded room of about 400 trucking executives, Haslam said his short-term goal is to make any wrongs against trucking companies right and to pay back money owed with interest.

He again expressed his disgust with the allegations of alleged rebate fraud revealed in an affidavit.

Haslam said a long-term goal of the company is to reestablish trust with customers.

"It pains me greatly when I talk to a trucking company CEO and he says, 'Look Jimmy, I don't know about the trust factor. I don't know about the integrity issue,'" Haslam said.

He said there are 5,000 trucking companies involved in contracts with Pilot, and of those only 400 were involved with manual rebates. Of those, 250 saw an adjustment made.

"We are going to have a chief compliance officer. I take the blame for us not," said Haslam.

Haslam said last week he has been talking to trucking companies since the fuel rebate scandal broke, personally contacting hundreds of them.

Federal authorities are investigating whether the Knoxville-based truck stop chain cheated customers out of rebates on large fuel purchases.

The company has hired an external company called FTI to assist with finances, and an internal audit is addressing money owed.

He said though the company's reputation has been damaged, oil companies continue to work closely with Pilot and the company is assuring customers they will continue to have the same high supply of fuel.

Pilot business is down one and a half percent following the FBI raid, Haslam said, but he blames that on a shrinking market.

He also said there was a large amount of confusion after the April 15 raid, and the affidavit revealed only the "potential for wrong-doing."

Many trucking companies at the seminar said they're still doing business with Pilot and have no plans to stop.

"We buy the majority of our fuel from their company. We have a good relationship with them," said PGT Trucking Chief Financial Officer David Henry.

"Jimmy's doing all the right things, saying the right things, as he should," said Bestway Express President & CEO Shepard Dunn.

But it was clear some members of the trucking industry are still skeptical.

President of the American Trucking Association Bill Graves asked Haslam questions that were submitted by different trucking companies who are looking for answers.

"There are several suggestions in the federal affidavit that you personally were aware of the scheme to underpay rebates to some of your customers. Were you and did you participate in any way?" he asked the Pilot Flying J CEO and president.

"Absolutely not," Haslam replied.

Graves said the trucking industry is looking to make all potentially cheated companies whole again and to bring any Pilot Flying J employee to justice if they did, in fact, intentionally defraud their customers.

"We're in the wait and see mode. Do they actually make good on all those promises?" Graves wondered.

During his address, Haslam said Pilot hasn't had many issues with creditors, saying the company is still working well with banks and even oil companies despite the investigation.

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