PR expert says settlement helps Pilot to repair public image

PR expert says settlement helps Pilot to repair public image

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"Settling the class action lawsuit is huge, because not only does it show they're sincere about resolving this, but it also means there won't be trials," public relations expert Mike Cohen said. "Settling the class action lawsuit is huge, because not only does it show they're sincere about resolving this, but it also means there won't be trials," public relations expert Mike Cohen said.

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A public relations expert told 6 News the class action settlement and other steps taken by Pilot Flying J are helping the diesel giant restore its image following a very public FBI investigation into rebate fraud.

In roughly three months, Pilot Flying J has faced allegations of fraud, followed by lawsuits by more than 20 plaintiffs and guilty pleas entered by five employees.

During a press conference April 22, 2013, CEO Jimmy Haslam acknowledged the damage the investigation has done to the company.

"I understand more than anyone the damage that's been done to our reputation, our brand, and our relationship in the trucking community," Haslam said.

But Mike Cohen from Cohen Communications told 6 News that Tuesday's preliminary approval for a class action settlement by a U.S. District Court Judge in Arkansas is a major step forward for the company.

"Settling the class action lawsuit is huge, because not only does it show they're sincere about resolving this, but it also means there won't be trials," Cohen said.

There are 13 other lawsuits still pending and it's unclear whether they will pursue separate legal action or join the lump settlement.

Pilot Flying J also sent a letter to customers explaining the steps the company has taken to internally investigate the allegations.

In a letter signed by Haslam, he writes: "We understand that Pilot Flying J still has lots of work to do to regain your trust."

"They're not writing it just for their customers," Cohen said. "They're also writing it for your viewers. They're writing it for the general public and it's updating people."

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