The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

June 27, 2013

Pilot lawsuits could be shifted to single court

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A dozen federal lawsuits against the truck stop chain run by Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam could be consolidated before a single judge.

The cases stem from a federal investigation into alleged rebate fraud by the sales team at privately held Pilot Flying J, the country’s largest diesel retailer.

Various plaintiffs have asked for the cases to be shifted to federal courts in northern Ohio, southern Mississippi or middle Tennessee.

Pilot wants the cases to be heard in Knoxville, where the company is based and where most of the defendants live. Nineteen of 35 employees mentioned in an FBI affidavit released following the April raid on Pilot headquarters live in Tennessee, according to the company.

Pilot said it would also agree to having the cases heard in Nashville or Chicago.

Consolidating and transferring the cases would help avoid duplication, inconsistent rulings and an “unseemly race to judgment,” Pilot said in a legal filing late last week.

The federal lawsuits against Pilot have been filed in Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Illinois, Florida, Ohio and Tennessee. A federal panel on multidistrict litigation is scheduled to hear oral arguments on consolidating the cases in late July.

Several other lawsuits have been filed in state courts.

Five members of the Pilot sales team have pleaded guilty to mail fraud charges and are cooperating with federal prosecutors. Jimmy Haslam, the brother of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, has said he was unaware of the alleged conspiracy to defraud trucking company customers until he read the FBI affidavit.

The governor, who was president of Pilot until he was elected Knoxville mayor in 2003, retains an undisclosed financial stake in Pilot, but has no active operational role in the company with annual revenues of $31 billion.

But connections to the family business persist. Haslam this week shrugged off questions about a Pilot board member overseeing a company that is seeking coal mining rights on public land in Tennessee.

Hillsborough Resources, a subsidiary of the Vitol Group, has been negotiating to mine coal within the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area near Crossville. The president and CEO of Vitol’s North and South American operations, Mike Loya, serves on the Pilot board.

Haslam told The Associated Press that he doesn’t know Loya personally. A Vitol representative did not return a message seeking comment.

Tom Ingram, a close adviser to both the governor and Pilot, faces an Aug. 1 hearing by the Tennessee Ethics Commission over his failure to register as a lobbyist on behalf of Hillsborough.

Ingram ran Haslam’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign and has also coordinated the company’s public response to an FBI raid on Pilot’s headquarters.

“That’s just how life works a lot of time,” Haslam said. “Look, there’s a whole lot of lobbyists who represent a whole lot of different people.”

“There’s just a lot of people who have overlapping interests,” he said.

Haslam announced Tuesday that he will soon begin paying Ingram out of his re-election campaign account instead of through personal funds. Ingram did not return a message seeking comment.

 

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Rain of asteroids melted early Earth, boiled its oceans

    When you look up at the moon’s pockmarked face, you’re actually staring at Earth’s early history. The rain of asteroids that pummeled the lunar surface hit our planet too - it’s just that erosion and plate tectonics blotted out the evidence. In fact, no rocks anywhere in the world survived to tell the story of the first 500 million years of Earth’s 4.5 billion-year existence, a tumultuous period of frequent impacts known darkly as the Hadean.

    August 1, 2014

  • As U.S. job market strengthens, many don’t feel it

    For millions of workers, happy days aren’t quite here again.

    August 1, 2014

  • Energy boom brings new focus on rail, pipeline safety

    The sharp increase in U.S. oil production and its promise of energy independence is coming with a disastrous byproduct: spills that threaten lives, communities and the environment.

    August 1, 2014

  • Deep-sea octopus goes without food for 4.5 years while watching eggs

    Talk about extreme parenting: Scientists have found a deep-sea octopus mama that faithfully guards the same clutch of eggs for an incredible 4 1/2 years — a record.

    July 31, 2014

  • Study finds 35 percent in U.S. facing debt collectors

    More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, according to a study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute.

    July 30, 2014

  • U.S. blasts Israel for Kerry criticism

    The Obama administration pushed back strongly Monday at a torrent of Israeli criticism over Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest bid to secure a cease-fire with Hamas, accusing some in Israel of launching a “misinformation campaign” against the top American diplomat.

    July 29, 2014

  • Outlook on Medicare finances improves

    Medicare’s finances are looking brighter, the government said Monday. The program’s giant hospital trust fund won’t be exhausted until 2030 — four years later than last year’s estimate.

    July 29, 2014

  • Plan to simplify 2015 health renewals may backfire

    If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises.

    July 28, 2014

  • Hospital shooting suspect charged with murder

    A man accused of fatally shooting his caseworker and grazing his psychiatrist at a suburban Philadelphia hospital complex before the doctor returned fire has been charged with murder.

    July 28, 2014

  • Man seeks video of Oklahoma City bombing

    One man’s quest to explain his brother’s mysterious jail cell death 19 years ago has rekindled long-dormant questions about whether others were involved in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

    July 28, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video