Yes, there’s been a proposed settlement of the one of the nationwide class actions against Pilot Flying J, the chain of truck-stops run by Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. But with up to 4,000 trucking companies supposedly encompassed by the deal, there’s a chance that up to 3,999 of them will choose to exercise their right to pass on it.
The settlement would pay each company every dollar that it lost as a result of the customer fraud rebate scam, plus six-percent interest and attorneys’ fees.
A lawyer representing four of the companies has made his clients’ position clear, via a press release forwarded to PFT.
“Pilot rebate fraud occurred on top of the toughest of economic times for the trucking industry,” the release for Drew McElroy of Knoxville states. “Because of this, it is understandable that some trucking companies will accept these terms simply because of the economic pressure.
“However, in a case where absolutely no discovery has been conducted, it is hard to reasonably evaluate any proposed settlement. It is also hard to comprehend how breaking even with a company who has perpetrated fraud is a good deal.”
McElroy’s release comes at a time when the proposed deal has received praise and generated much-needed positive P.R. for Pilot Flying J. But McElroy sees it differently, calling it a “sad commentary on class action litigation when pundits declare it a good deal to break even with thieves.”
Though the trucking companies shouldn’t unfairly profit from the settlement, allowing Pilot Flying J to pay back the money it should have paid in the first place isn’t the best way to ensure that these kinds of activities will be abandoned by unscrupulous corporations.
McElroy point out that the estimated payout of $35 million represents less than 11 hours of Pilot revenues. To discourage Pilot and others from engaging in similar misconduct in the future, much greater liability will be needed.
Of course, the five Pilot Flying J executives (and likely counting) who have faced criminal liability likely would say that the message has been received, loud and clear.