By Walter F. Roche Jr. / The Tennessean
The man who formed the corporation now seeking to settle multiple
suits against Pilot Flying J heads a trucking association of which Pilot
is a member and major contributor.
Lane Kidd, an Arkansas
resident, filed incorporation papers for National Trucking Financial
Reclamation Services, LLC on April 22, just days after the FBI conducted
a widely publicized raid on Pilot's Knoxville headquarters.
days later, National Trucking filed the class action suit leading to the
proposed settlement. That led other trucking companies to argue in
court filings that Kidd's firm was a "shell" company, "hastily conjured
in Arkansas" for resolving the civil cases against Pilot, which has been
accused by federal authorities of cheating trucking companies out of
Kidd is also the head of the Arkansas Trucking
Association, which counts Pilot as a major contributor and a member. In
fact, the two corporations share the same office suite in Little Rock,
according to corporate and tax records.
The relationship between
Kidd and Pilot comes to light as lawyers for some trucking companies
question the so-called global settlement, defined as one that would
settle all civil claims against the company.
In one filing this
week in Knoxville, Drew McElroy, the attorney for Atlantic Coast
Carriers and three other trucking firms, charged that National Trucking
was a "shell corporation" that shouldn't qualify to be part of the class
"National Trucking is not a trucking company and has
never bought a gallon of fuel from Pilot," the motion states, adding
that National didn't qualify to be in the group bringing the class
action suit in the first place.
Kidd could not be reached for comment.
Pilot spokeswoman acknowledged that the truck stop chain is a member of
the Arkansas Trucking Association, but said Pilot had nothing to do
with the filing of incorporation papers for National Trucking, the lead
plaintiff in the Arkansas suit.
In a separate motion filed Aug. 14
in an Alabama federal court, the attorney for Wright Transportation,
attorney Stephen M Tunstall, made an almost identical charge - that
National Transportation was "a shell company recently formed" and that
it was not a trucking company or a customer of Pilot's.
attorneys had petitioned a federal court in Alabama to put the Wright
case on hold pending a settlement in Arkansas, but a magistrate judge
rejected that request earlier this week.
Wright's lawyers contend
that the so-called settlement does nothing more than give the trucking
companies what had been offered publicly by Pilot CEO James A. Haslam
himself outside of any court action.
"Following the unsealing of
the FBI affidavit and the execution of the search warrant," the Wright
motion states," the defendants went into damage control."
Pilot's lawyers said the proposed agreement was a "global, class-wide
settlement of all claims," the motion states, "Wright Transportation and
other plaintiffs were unaware of any such discussion."
association, which is incorporated as a nonprofit, publishes a magazine,
the Arkansas Trucking Report, which includes frequent references to
Pilot and the fact that Knoxville truck stop firm is a Gold contributor
to the association's annual conferences.
An article in the April 2012 issue of the magazine states that Pilot is a corporate member of the association.
the settlement was proposed, the magazine published an article with the
heading, "We're glad that Mr. Haslam stepped up and did the right
thing." The quote came from a statement made by National Trucking's
attorney, Michael Roberts.
In the October 2011 issue of the
association magazine, former Pilot sales agent Cathy Giesick is pictured
holding up a sign to greet truckers during truck driver appreciation
week. Giesick, who left Pilot, is named in the FBI affidavit as a
witness who assisted federal investigators by confirming details of the
rebate skimming scheme.
On Monday, Pilot attorney Aubrey Harwell
issued a statement supporting the proposed settlement and quoted one of
the attorneys involved in the case as saying it was "the best settlement
he ever negotiated."
"It provides that all Pilot Flying J
customers who are owed money will be paid quickly, every dollar owed
plus interest," Harwell wrote.
Under the agreement, lawyers for
the trucking companies will share in fees totaling as much as $14
million. For Pilot, meanwhile, having the cases consolidated in one
court would spare the company the expense of defending itself in
multiple courts across the country. More than 20 suits have been filed
Kidd, who is in the midst of a federal bankruptcy case
with his wife Jennifer, earned $194,729 from the association in the most
recent fiscal year, according to the association's tax return.
tax returns also show that Kidd's wife heads a publishing company,
Matthews Publishing Group, which gets paid by the association with
annual fees ranging from $74,852 to $221,824.
Kidd is also registered with the state of Arkansas as a lobbyist for the trucking association, Arkansas state records show.