Pilot Flying J has reached a settlement with eight trucking firms that filed federal lawsuits against the truck stop operator.
The trucking companies charged that Pilot operated a fraudulent rebate scheme on the purchases of diesel fuel, cheating them out of millions of dollars, USA Today reports.
Pilot’s 38-page class action settlement proposal, to which U.S. District Judge Joseph Moody in Little Rock, Ark., gave initial approval on July 16, does not admit any wrongdoing, but Pilot does agree to repay the companies for any rebate amounts they are owed, plus 6 percent interest. The amount due to each firm is to be based on the results of Pilot’s internal audit, which will be reviewed by an outside, independent auditor.
The agreement also calls for the trucking companies’ lawyers to receive a third of the total settlement or $14 million — whichever is less. Pilot will pay the lawyers’ fees, which will not come out of the settlement, according to Aubrey Harwell, Pilot’s lawyer. Harwell said that he did not expect legal fees to reach $14 million, but if it did, the maximum payout to the truckers would be $42 million.
“Today in the United States District Court, Western Division of the Eastern District of Arkansas, our attorneys, working together with attorneys for eight of the companies that have filed class action lawsuits against Pilot Flying J, agreed to a plan to pay all customers who join the class 100% of the money they are owed, plus 6% interest, as soon as possible and without the need for unnecessary time in court, plaintiff legal fees or out of pocket costs,” Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam said in a statement. “I commend all of these individuals for their hard work and dedication to ensuring our customers are paid back quickly and fairly for any potential discrepancies found in their accounts.”
Meanwhile, 13 other suits against Pilot Flying J are pending in state and federal courts. Plaintiffs in those cases can join in the Arkansas class action, or they can opt out and pursue separate cases.
FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents raided Pilot’s headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn., on April 15, 2013, as part of a federal probe into the rebate scheme. Officials alleged that trucking firms meeting certain purchase levels were promised rebates, but sales staff then reduced those amounts for some customers. Since then, Haslam has announced personnel changes and other steps to address the allegations.