Walter F. Roche The Tennessean
A new suit has been filed against Pilot Flying J charging that the firm cheated a trucking company out of promised rebates and the plaintiffs already are moving to depose the company's top executive, James A. Haslam.
The suit which was filed in circuit court in Knoxville late last week charges that Pilot Flying J secretly reduced the rebates promised to Cedar Creek, a Georgia trucking company, which operates in Tennessee.
"Pilot regularly, purposely and intentionally understated the amount owed to Cedar Creek," the nine-page complaint states.
Filed along with the complaint was a notice that the attorneys for Cedar Creek plan to depose Haslam and Pilot spokesman Tom Ingram in October. Pilot executives Mark Hazelwood and John Freeman also are scheduled for depositions on Oct. 14.
According to the notice, the videotaped deposition of James Haslam is scheduled for Oct. 15.
Ingram, a well known lobbyist, also serves as a consultant to Haslam's brother, Gov. Bill Haslam.
Like nearly two dozen other suits filed in the past four months, the complaint cites an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville in April by an FBI agent. The 120-page document charges that the Pilot's top sales executives conspired to cheat trucking companies by shaving promised rebates.
The complaint cites the transcripts of secretly recorded Pilot sales meeting in which Freeman and other sales staff discussed the rebate-skimming scheme.
"These conversations also reveal that Pilot took active steps to conceal their activities from its customers and law enforcement officials," the complaint states, adding that the tapes show the scheme took place with the awareness and consent of Haslam and Pilot President Mark Hazelwood.
Cedar Creek's attorney stated in the complaint that they plan to reject a proposed settlement filed in federal court in Arkansas. In that settlement Pilot has promised to reimburse truckers for any reduced rebates plus 6 percent interest.
According to the complaint Pilot officials told Cedar Creek that they have not calculated how much is owed to former customers like Cedar Creek
"Cedar Creek does not wish to participate in the proposed settlement and will opt out of it," the complaint states.
The suit charges Pilot with wrongful conversion, breach of contract and violations of the state's consumer protection laws.
The suit was filed by Knoxville attorney Louis McElroy and Savannah attorney Mark A. Tate.