By Walter F. Roche Jr. / The Tennessean
Six members of Pilot Flying J's sales team have quit or been fired and three others have been placed on administrative leave, according to Jimmy Haslam the truckstop chain's CEO.
In a letter made public Monday, but dated July 12, Haslam also informed his customers that an initial audit has been completed of truckers who may have been shorted on promised rebates. Checks have been sent out with interest to all who were found to be owed money, according to Haslam.
The three-page letter comes amid a federal investigation into charges that top Pilot officials devised a scheme to secretly reduce promised rebates to customers who they thought would never notice.
The allegations became public following an April 15 raid on Pilot's Knoxville headquarters and the filing of a 120-page affidavit by an FBI agent detailing the rebate skimming allegations.
Though Haslam did not identify those who have departed or were placed on leave, he did name a replacement for John Freeman, the vice president of sales, who was quoted extensively in the affidavit.
In the letter Haslam said that new procedures had already been put in place to eliminate the possibility of a repeat of the rebate skimming practices. He said "essentially all manually calculated diesel rebates at Pilot Flying J have beeen eliminated."
"It is important to note that there were numerous, manual diesel rebate accounts that had a zero balance and even some accounts that owed money to Pilot Flying J," Haslam said in the letter.
Haslam disclosed that David Hughes had been promoted to Freeman's job. He said Hughes came to Pilot last year from a Chatanooga trucking firm. Three other appointments were announced, including a director of inside sales and a vice president.
"This has been a very difficult time for members of our diesel fuel sales team who remain in place," Haslam wrote, calling them "real troopers."
Five Pilot sales employees already have pleaded guilty to federal charges including mail and wire fraud. In addition 17 trucking firms have filed suit against Pilot in federal court and several others are pending in state and county courts including Knoxville. The federal suits are expected to be merged when a judicial panel meets July 25 in Portland, Maine.