By Chuck Bartels
LITTLE ROCK, ARK.: A federal judge in Arkansas approved a settlement Monday that pays $84.9 million to 5,500 trucking companies who were cheated out of promised rebates by Pilot Flying J, the nation’s largest diesel retailer.
The settlement doesn’t put to rest a federal investigation in which seven company employees have already entered guilty pleas.
Attorney Aubrey Harwell Jr. of Nashville said Jimmy Haslam, owner of the Cleveland Browns and CEO of the truck stop chain, had no knowledge that employees were cheating customers. The company is co-owned by Haslam’s brother, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who has said he isn’t involved with its operations.
U.S. District Judge James Moody said Monday that he was satisfied that the settlement was fair, reasonable and equitable.
“I don’t have any reservation about giving final approval here,” Moody said at the end of an hour-long hearing in Little Rock.
Moody also approved another $14 million in fees that will go to the truckers’ lawyers.
The settlement reimburses trucking firms for their losses, plus 6 percent interest, which is calculated from the time each rebate should have been paid. The cheating dates back to 2005. No one among the 5,500 companies in the settlement filed an objection.