Pilot Flying J settlement approved in Arkansas

Pilot Flying J settlement approved in Arkansas

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By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (WATE) - A federal judge gave final approval Monday morning to a settlement between Pilot Flying J and nearly 6,000 trucking customers at a fairness hearing in Little Rock, Ark.

Judge James Moody said the settlement is "fair, reasonable and adequate" and said he wants to "commend everyone that's participated in this."

Under the deal, members of the class action suit will receive every penny of unpaid discounts they are owed plus six percent interest. The settlement also includes a permanent injunction prohibiting Pilot from ever improperly withholding rebates or discounts in the future.

"This is the way the civil justice system is supposed to work," attorney for the plaintiffs Don Barrett said. "Everybody is going to get like, 117 percent is the average, of their losses."

"[Pilot Flying J] was committed to doing the right thing," Pilot Flying J attorney Aubrey Harwell said. "Where there were things that haven't been handled properly, they were committed to make them right and pay in a fair and reasonable way."

The agreement was given preliminary approval over the summer.

Attorneys say Pilot owes an estimated $84.9 million, which surpasses the $70 million initially thought before Monday's hearing.

Pilot Flying J has been under fire since April after an FBI raid of the headquarters in Knoxville revealed an alleged rebate scam. According to the federal affidavit authorities believe several members of the company's sales team knowingly cheated customers out of money owed from fuel rebates.

In July, Pilot Flying J came to a proposed settlement agreement where the diesel giant agreed to pay back all money owed plus interest to the involved parties.

Trucking companies not part of that settlement had until mid-October to opt out, or else they would be considered potential class action members.

One hundred and forty-six companies opted out of the court action and are suing the company on their own.

Prosecutors have obtained guilty pleas from seven people alleged to have taken part in the scheme, and two others were given immunity in exchange for their cooperation.

Prior to Monday's hearing, Pilot Flying J had already sent checks to customers who were found to be owed money during the internal audit, including four percent interest.  As to those accounts, an additional two percent interest will be paid to bring the total interest to six percent as provided in the settlement agreement.

Harwell said the company continues to maintain that CEO Jimmy Haslam was not involved the alleged scam in any way.

"As you know, Mr. Haslam has appeared in public before the media," Harwell said. "If in fact he had any liability or guilt, I suggest to you that no man in that position would have done that so clearly and unequivocally suggests that he knew absolutely nothing."

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