Haslam updates Pilot Flying J situation via 12-minute speech

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Since football season began, the football media hasn’t been paying far more attention to the football team Jimmy Haslam owns than the billion-dollar truck-stop business his family founded.

On Monday, a day after the Browns won their second straight game after supposedly giving up on the season (some would say that only the Browns could screw up trying to lose), Haslam delivered a 12-minute statement regarding the ongoing legal issues involving Pilot Flying J.

“This has been a very humbling, very embarrassing time,” Haslam said, via John Caniglia of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Seven Pilot Flying J sales employees have pleaded guilty to fraud charges arising from a rebate program that withheld money from customers.

The timing of the press conference is a bit unusual.  Unless Haslam has been told he won’t be charged criminally (which is unlikely, given that he declined to answer questions), anything he says can be used against him by prosecutors.  Still, the comments undoubtedly are aimed at boosting the company’s business interests in some tangible way.

In addition to the criminal probe, numerous civil lawsuits have been filed.  A nationwide settlement tentatively has been approved, but multiple customers plan to opt out and pursue their own recoveries.

Haslam described efforts to reimburse customers as “mammoth” and the efforts of those who helped determine the amounts owed “heroic.”  But he nevertheless downplayed the extent of the fraud, calling the underpayments an “extremely small percentage” and a “fractional amount” of the company’s sales.

Several weeks have passed since the latest guilty pleas.  Prosecutors have been tight-lipped about the situation, allowing those who admit to violations of federal law do the talking with their acceptance of responsibility for it.

15 responses to “Haslam updates Pilot Flying J situation via 12-minute speech

  1. Billionaires all have skeletons in the closet.

    You don’t get rich enough to own an NFL team by practicing honorable business ethics and a sucker is born every minute.

    The real question here is how long or how many times had they gotten away with it before?

  2. What do you expect, he started ownership with Pittsburgh. Learned first hand how to screw people from the Rooneys

  3. Can’t people just simply act honorably anymore? If we have a deal where you agree to pay me some amount of money, then pay me my damn money, without us having to bring lawyers and courts into the equation.

  4. “…an “extremely small percentage” and a “fractional amount” of the company’s sales…”

    A very small percentage of sales can be a very large percentage of profit. Does he think everyone is stupid? He’s reached the hight of arrogance to say that and think people will believe it. Hope he has to sell the Browns. The fans deserve better.

  5. Money corrupts people. And in the profit over everything that this society has moved toward it has gotten worse. Mayors, directors of large hospitals, politicians en masse (not too many politicians aren’t corrupt), everybody is taking hand outs and kickbacks that would keep Andy Dufresne busy until rapture. He just got caught, but it is a wonder that the FBI was able to keep it a secret. As long as:
    1: the defrauded get their money plus some
    2: The Browns don’t change owners/leadership again

    I am fine.

  6. He is going away. Those people didn’t cop a plea so Jimmy has to pay a bigger fine, they took a plea because The FBI has an iron clad case against them and they will have to rat out Haslam. He is going to be criminally charged any day now. This is just him letting us know it’s coming down.

  7. While I’m glad his money’s no longer tied up with the Steelers, this stinks for the Browns. This investigation has been going on for a while now. Doesn’t the NFL vet potential owners to avoid these situations? The Cleveland franchise has been through more than enough upheaval without having an owner dealing with criminal charges.

  8. I assume that Haslam and the Browns are not “hillbilly” enough for the writer?

    Can a former lawyer and a fan of the Mountaineers and the Steelers ever support any team or team owner who dwells closer to sea-level? I don’t think so…

  9. @joemammy …

    Was just thinking that if he wound up in jail, he might have to sell the team. Would hate to see the Browns go through yet another ownership change.

  10. Funny- I remember untold amounts of commenters here saying things to the effect that the legal problems for Haslam were going to spell another disastrous year for the Browns. I kept thinking to myself, “Why do so many people here think that when the owners day to day business dealings have basically nothing to do with how a team performs on the field?”

    Four weeks later, with the Browns having won their last two and clearly being on an upswing while the rest of the AFCN falls apart- and having the 3rd ranked defense in the NFL, I’m still struggling to figure out how Haslam’s troubles are negatively impacting the team.

    Then again, the last time the Browns had a sketchy owner who made underhanded business deals, they won an NFL championship, appeared in the following one, went to the AFC championship three times, and appeared in the playoffs frequently.

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