Pilot Flying J settlement with some trucking companies approved by judge

From the News-Sentinel:
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A federal judge in Arkansas on Monday approved a proposed settlement between Pilot Fyling J and trucking companies that have sued over allegations of diesel fuel rebate fraud.

In a brief hearing, U.S. District Judge James M. Moody said the settlement was fair, reasonble and adequate. The decision came after Pilot attorney Aubrey Harwell and plaintiffs attorney Don Barrett had made arguments in favor of the settlement proposal.

The controversy erupted in April, after federal officials raided Pilot’s headquarters, and an ongoing criminal investigation has netted seven guilty pleas.

The company also was hit with more than 20 civil lawsuits, and reached a settlement with some of those plaintiffs in which it offered to fully repay any company that was shorted on fuel rebates, plus 6 percent interest and attorneys’ fees.

After the hearing, Harwell answered questions from the media, and addressed suggestions in the federal affidavit that Pilot CEO Jimmy Haslam was aware of fraudulent activity at the company.

“You know, you can sue the Pope for bastardy,” he said. “There are those people who’ve made that suggestion. It’s absolutely, completely and totally ill-founded.”

Asked about allegations in the affidavit that Haslam was present at a meeting where fraud was discussed, Harwell said, “He was in meetings. He was in and out of meetings. There were some meetings that apparently took place when he was present in the building or when he would walk by and speak to people but in terms of his knowing or participating in any of this it absolutely, irrevocably didn’t happen.”

Plaintiffs who have embraced the settlement deal have estimated Pilot’s total payout — including refunds owed, attorneys’ fees, auditing costs and other items — will be about $84.9 million.

More than 50 companies opted out of the settlement, though, and many of those have filed separate lawsuits against Pilot.

Note: Gov. Bill Haslam has no comment on the latest development in the lawsuit against a Haslam family-owned company, according to Post Politics:
“It’s just not something that I’m involved in or something that I’ll have a comment on,” he told reporters.