Haslam reads lengthy statement to media, takes no questions

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Browns owner Jimmy Haslam apparently has received — and is heeding — advice from his lawyers regarding the fact that anything he says can and will be used against him, if/when he personally faces charges for fraud allegedly committed by the billion-dollar, family-owned truck-stop company he runs.

As a result, Haslam met with the media again on Monday, but instead of speaking extemporaneously and then answering questions, he read from a lengthy prepared statement that surely was written or at least reviewed and revised by one or more lawyers.

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has the full text of the statement, which says nothing about the Browns.  While the smartest move at this point would be to say nothing at all about anything, Haslam realizes that his customers could scatter and his employees could flee and the entire operation could disintegrate without real efforts to hold the business together.

But in starting the process of rebuilding trust and restoring confidence, Haslam comes dangerously close to admitting that improprieties occurred.  For example, in explaining that the company will now have a “Chief Compliance Officer,” Haslam basically acknowledges that, if whoever blew the whistle to the feds had a way to blow the whistle internally, the whole thing could have been fixed without outside scrutiny.

“The establishment of a position of Chief Compliance Officer is important, because had we had one before, perhaps some team member would have raised a question about manual rebates internally before anyone would ever have gone to federal investigators,” Haslam said.

Haslam also continues to emphasize that the situation affects only a “narrow” portion of the company’s business.  But with 3,300 trucking-company customers, a lot of fraud can still happen to a “narrow” band of customers.  Reciting instances of compliance with the lawyer is never a defense to the specific instances when the law was broken.

Most significantly, Haslam explained that the company placed on “administrative leave several members of our diesel fuel team.”  Presumably, that includes V.P. of sales John Freeman, whose colorful and profane terms were caught on tape by an informant, along with an admission that Haslam was aware of the alleged rebate scam.

If/when Freeman agrees to testify against Haslam, Haslam will have a serious problem; in the interim, Haslam and his lawyers necessarily must commence preparations for painting this once-trusted employee as inherently unreliable, especially as to anything he would say under oath about Haslam.

Of course, none of it matters if Pilot Flying J ends up being driven into the ground by the loss of customers and personnel.  Haslam’s statement from Monday is aimed at keeping that from happening.

17 responses to “Haslam reads lengthy statement to media, takes no questions

  1. Pilot Flying J is way too large and integrated around the country to “disappear”. If anything they would re-brand, but I dont think that will happen either.

    If they fix things, I am sure customers will be even more secure in that they know the scrutiny over their rebates will be forefront on their minds. Truckers like those places.

  2. If Haslam did not know, he’s still in trouble. The other guy can simply lie and get a lesser charge or even immunity. Happens a lot, I’m sure

  3. has anyone seen the new Nike designed orange jumpsuit uniforms for Cleveland Browns? Haslam is said to be so pleased he decided to unveil it himself for the coming season.

  4. And how did he pay for the Browns? Did he borrow against his equity in his company, which if it implodes or even declines significantly would be worth much less and the loan could be called? PFT should do some digging on the structure of where he got the cash to buy the team.

  5. so, I think the OT’s will be off the board by pick 6 leaving Milliiner and likley Ansah on the board – and an outside chance Dion Jordan…

  6. Yeah and some guys only rape and kill one woman despite dating a lot of them. Does Haslam suggest that there should be a free pass until you reach a quota that deserves punishment?

    And I still want to know how he prides himself and his company on Integrity if he doesn’t have mngmt or oversight processes in place to make sure it’s in place and working?

  7. Turns out the Haslam and Co. were engaged in a manual rebate scam with Browns fans too where they promised winning games in exchange for buying tickets. The scam was apparently passed on from previous administrations and has been quite profitable.

  8. Damage control at its finest.Money well spent on our new strategy. Still not buying it.Neither is the rest of blue collar Cleveland.This is gonna get worse.

  9. I’m curious, if the NFL holds players accountable for their behavior on and off the field during or outside of the regular/post-season. Shouldn’t the NFL also be holding Owners accountable for tarnishing the image as well? All jokes about the Browns aside, it would seem like a gross double-standard for the NFL to do nothing to an owner for such transgressions.

  10. Haslam in his statement also mentioned he is looking into more competitive pricing on bags of peanuts and chips at his truck stops. I think this is step in the right direction and am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in this fiasco.

  11. It’s too bad. Between the constant drum beat of Haslam/Browns bashing and lobbying for gays in the NFL, this site is exposing its true colors.

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