Written by: Walter F. Roche Jr., The Tennessean
A Missouri firm has filed suit in circuit court in Knoxville charging that Pilot Flying J engaged in a fraudulent scheme to reduce rebates on diesel fuel purchases.
The eight-page complaint was filed in behalf of NKC Transportation, a Kansas City trucking firm. Several other claims against the Knoxville-based travel center firm have been filed in the same court, and a hearing on those five claims is set for Sept. 10. Last week Pilot's lawyers were ordered to file a response to those complaints.
The new complaint filed by attorney Drew McElroy charges that Pilot "regularly, purposely and intentionally understated the amount owed to NKC and other similar companies."
Cited in the complaint is a 120-page affidavit filed in April in U.S. District Court in Knoxville by an FBI agent to justify an April 15 raid on the travel chain's headquarters. The lengthy document details efforts by senior Pilot sales executives to cheat unsophisticated truckers out of promised rebates.
It includes transcripts of secretly recorded meetings of the Pilot sales staff in which they described the manual rebate scheme and how they could grab the "low-hanging fruit."
Fairness hearing set
Overall, some two dozen suits have been filed against Pilot in state and federal courts across the country, all based on the affidavit. A federal judge in Arkansas has scheduled a Nov. 25 fairness hearing to determine whether a preliminarily approved settlement with several truckers should be finalized.
In the filing Wednesday, McElroy made clear that NKC does not intend to join in that settlement "and has opted out of it."
"Pilot staff intentionally withheld relevant pricing information from its customers, including NKC, who made inquiries about the rebate amounts they received," the suit states.
The complaint charges Pilot with breach of contract, wrongful conversion and violations of Tennessee's consumer protection statutes.
The suit also seeks unspecified punitive damages and reimbursement of legal fees.