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Lawsuits piling up against Pilot Flying J

Haslam Getty Images

Lost in the draft and its aftermath have been the legal troubles of Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.  The family-owned truck-stop empire Haslam runs faces an ominous FBI and IRS probe into fraud against customers.

As the wheels of the criminal justice system grind slowly, several of the allegedly defrauded customers have pulled the rip cord on the civil justice system.

Pilot Flying J already faces multiple lawsuits, including several class actions.  (Courts use class actions when numerous persons have suffered a sufficiently similar injury to allow the entire situation to be bundled into one case.)  At least four class actions have been filed in recent days, and at least eight total lawsuits have been filed by customers who allegedly had rebates and discounts manipulated in a way that generated extra revenue for Haslam’s company.

The lawsuits flow from the 120-page affidavit that triggered a search warrant of the company’s headquarters.  At least one employee of Pilot Flying J secretly recorded conversations and meetings regarding the alleged practice of preying on trucking companies deemed not sufficiently sophisticated to realize their pockets were being picked.

One trucking company recovered $146,000 from Pilot Flying J before the search warrant hit the fan.  W.N. Morehouse Truck Line in Omaha, Nebraska spotted the discrepancy and pushed until Pilot Flying J rectified the situation.  According to the Omaha World-Herald, one of the recorded conversations in the federal investigation specifically related to W.N. Morehouse’s failure to track the money owed via rebates.

“The trucking industry as a whole has a poor reputation for not being the smartest people, but I think we proved that not to be true because we caught them,” office manager Curt Morehouse said.  “There’s probably some people [at Pilot] who think they’re sophisticated who don’t have a job today.”

There also may could be some people at Pilot who end up being sophisticated federal inmates.

In the interim, Haslam is trying to hold his business together.  He has hired an independent outside investigator, whose independence necessarily is compromised by the fact that Pilot Flying J is paying the bill.  Moreover, Pilot Flying J has launched a fairly transparent effort to keep customers by offering double points in its rewards program.

“Not only do we want to reward our loyal customers for their patronage, we want to demonstrate our industry-leading appreciation to the hardworking and inspiring drivers who keep this country moving,” Haslam said.

The fact that Haslam didn’t call the move what it is — a desperate P.R. ploy launched after the company apparently was caught with its hand pressed against the bottom of the proverbial cookie jar — suggests that Pilot Flying J continues to underestimate its customers.   Allegedly.

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25 Responses to “Lawsuits piling up against Pilot Flying J”
  1. briscocountyjr says: May 4, 2013 9:57 PM

    This could cause the browns enough of a distraction to really keep them out of the playoffs..

  2. saudogg says: May 4, 2013 9:58 PM

    Oh, Jimmy….I hope the Browns don’t get screwed over because of your dumbass-ery

  3. waitstop says: May 4, 2013 10:07 PM

    not to relieve pilot flying j of any guilt, if being more sophisticated in my business process would allow me to not get fleeced for $120k, I’d invest in my infrastructure.

  4. silvernblak says: May 4, 2013 10:09 PM

    The Browns players and fans just cant catch a break can they? Since 94′ it has been a nightmare that won’t go away. Thats to bad.

  5. dickjagger says: May 4, 2013 10:11 PM

    If anything the browns organazation can use this to rally a decent season in 13. Then again, this is the Browns. They have some good players at certain positions but not at the most important position (QB) so it will be up to these new coaches to bring out the best of the team. Time will tell, but based on history it doesn’t look good – especially when you look at the talent of the Ravens and Bengals. The steelers I can see them sweeping this season. But if this team wants to compete these new coaches better be “damn good” especially in that division.

  6. briscocountyjr says: May 4, 2013 10:15 PM

    Cleveland was looking to build patriotcheat 2.o, but got all mob boss with it!!

  7. sabatimus says: May 4, 2013 10:36 PM

    “The trucking industry as a whole has a poor reputation for not being the smartest people”.

    Looks like Morehouse is trying desperately to damage his point.

  8. officialgame says: May 4, 2013 10:45 PM

    This entire mess reeks of a well thought out scam. Why not just offer on the spot low prices for truck fuel? Answer, because if we did that we couldn’t rip you off!

  9. steelbreeze676 says: May 4, 2013 10:50 PM

    May as well move the team to Baltimore.

  10. dalucks says: May 4, 2013 10:53 PM

    What happened to the NFL background check? I GUESS they were the same people who conducted the Saints bounty investigation.
    The NFL was probably too busy counting the money from selling the Browns.

  11. uwsptke says: May 4, 2013 11:04 PM

    I’m struggling to think of an example of a company that has come out of a similar situation and survived. They’ve basically admitted to cheating their “loyal customers”, and their competitors will be all over this. This could very well be a fatal blow to the company.

    But I have a hard time believing that Haslam was in the dark on this. His VP that was caught on tape admitting to the scheme would have been fired ASAP if he wasn’t afraid of him rolling over on him.

  12. basruttensrighthand says: May 4, 2013 11:10 PM

    i have friends who are browns fans. it used to be fun to make fun of the river catching on fire and how they are still punch drunk from “the drive.” they continue to suck wind while the team that high tailed it out of dodge enjoys continued success. this is becoming sad.

  13. cherrybop says: May 4, 2013 11:18 PM

    As a Steelers fan, I’m beginning to feel sorry for Browns fans; by the time their team finally gets a SB ring, we’ll probably have more of them than we can fit on two hands. If they didn’t have bad luck, they’d have no luck.

  14. seanx40 says: May 5, 2013 12:52 AM

    San Antonio Browns just doesn’t sound right.

  15. melkipershero says: May 5, 2013 1:02 AM

    If youre a Browns fan you should be proud. True fans.

    Haslam will be in prison when this is all over.

  16. arcaero says: May 5, 2013 3:04 AM

    Thank you, Steelers, for bringing this guy into the NFL.

  17. rockinchox says: May 5, 2013 4:58 AM

    I have yet to see mention of the fact that Jimmy’s brother happens to be the Governor of Tennessee. Not a small detail in my opinion.

  18. essentialsausage says: May 5, 2013 8:28 AM

    It seems like the NFL really dropped the ball by allowing Haslam to buy the Browns.

  19. titansbro says: May 5, 2013 11:47 AM

    At first I was kinda pissed Bud Adams wouldn’t sell the Titans to this guy but now I’m thankful.

  20. pkoh15 says: May 5, 2013 2:08 PM

    There is no proof that Haslam knew about any of this. He took on a less involved role in the company when he bought the Browns. All they have is a phone convo of someone SAYING Haslam knew?! That’s not enough proof IMO….

  21. cyanidebreathmint7770 says: May 5, 2013 4:50 PM

    What the hell is Haslam thinking. Only the president is allowed to bend over and screw the hard working american

  22. bigbensucks says: May 5, 2013 5:08 PM

    Even with all of the Browns issues, it still beats being a Stoolers or Ratbird fan. At least the Browns didn’t keep a rapist and a murderer on the team. Keep that in mind when you are bashing Haslem.

  23. publicteamforever says: May 5, 2013 8:03 PM

    The entire 120 page search warrant affidavit is online. There are several references to Jimmy Haslam knowing that his sales force regularly shorted customers. It also appears that immediately before the warrant, someone tipped off the company CFO and general counsel that they were about to be busted. Should be interesting….

  24. sfm073 says: May 6, 2013 4:02 AM

    Lol he has owned the browns for like 7 months.

  25. mrmafaka says: May 6, 2013 9:35 PM

    Innocent till proven guilty, I thought Jimmy was the owner we needed, but it sure is off to a crappy start, ain’t no fan of any other team, of any sport in the world more snake bit than us BROWNS fans.

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