Pilot Flying J releases more details about what's inside the warrants

10:42 PM, Apr 17, 2013   |    comments
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10News is learning more about the details of the warrants filed against Pilot Flying J, but they are not coming from the FBI and IRS that raided the building Monday.  Instead, a Pilot Flying J spokesperson is the one talking.

CEO Jimmy Haslam told reporters Tuesday that federal agents served warrants apparently tied to a rebate program for some of their trucking customers. The company says as far as it knows, the investigation has nothing to do with taxes.

Wednesday, Pilot Flying J spokesperson Tom Ingram, said they have read the search warrants and everything focuses on the rebate program "as far as they can tell." But he said that doesn't mean there isn't something else involved.

Ingram said the program has been in place for a number of years and the company paid all of its rebates.  He said they are not sure what the investigator's issue is with them.  

Ingram said the warrants involve a sliver of the trucking companies with which they do business.  The affected companies are ones whose rebates are calculated manually.  Those trucking companies are usually smaller and their business fluctuates from month to month. Most of the company's other rebates are calculated automatically.

Ingram emphasized business is back to normal and CEO Jimmy Haslam who also owns the Cleveland Browns NFL franchise is headed to Ohio for the rest of the week to focus on the draft.

Ingram said to his knowledge there are no court hearings scheduled, and he isn't sure what's next in the investigation.

So far there have been no charges or arrests made against Pilot Flying J.

But among the many questions raised in this case, is one about the political fall-out for Governor Bill Haslam.

Governor Haslam has not worked for the company directly in more than a decade, but he still shares the family name.

Maryville College's Political Science professor says that direct connection could potentially be a cause of concern for the governor.

"As a privately run family business that's always the concern. You have a more direct connection rather than to board members and stock holders," said Dr. Mark O'Gorman.

But Dr. O'Gorman said with what little we know right now about the investigation, he believes it will have minimal impact on the governor's political future.

"If you're trying to find out if he's involved with it directly, you would have to find literally a smoking gun. That's over a decade old. I doubt that's the case here," O'Gorman said. "In terms of future for the governor, he has said he's not planning on running for national office and so I think the impact would be minimal."

Pilot's Public Relations firm, Moxley Carmichael, also said they have had several questions asking if this raid was politically motivated.

Pilot says they doubt that's the case and Dr. O'Gorman agrees with them.

"The FBI and IRS have to follow very strict rules and guidelines. It's not something they can decide on a whim that they want to visit a company. There needs to be a significant amount of evidence to give them credence to go in and do what they did on Monday because both those organizations know that even if they believe there is any political motivation, it has to stand up in a court of law," he said.

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