A federal investigation into the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain, which had been hanging over the heads of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and the NFL, took a major step toward resolution on Monday.
Haslam's Pilot Flying J company has reached an agreement with the federal government to avoid prosecution in the case, which involved employees withholding diesel fuel rebate money from hundreds of customers. Pilot Flying J agreed to pay a $92 million penalty, in addition to $56 million restitution to defrauded customers. Pilot Flying J accepted legal responsibility for the criminal conduct of its employees.
To avoid prosecution, the company must continue to meet all the terms of the deal. However, full cooperation is required in the agreement, and the deal provides "no protection from prosecution to any individual," which would include Haslam.
An NFL spokesman told the Akron Beacon Journal that the league had no comment on the agreement.
Haslam bought the Browns in 2012, and his time as owner has been rocky since then, with two coach firings and a restructuring of the front office this offseason. The most serious issue was the investigation into his company, which became big news in April of 2013 when the FBI and IRS raided Pilot Flying J headquarters. The scheme was built around sales employees shorting rebate money to trucking companies that bought diesel fuel from Pilot Flying J.
“We, as a company, look forward to putting this whole unfortunate episode behind us, continuing our efforts to rectify the damage done, regaining our customers’ trust, and getting on with our business,” Haslam said in a Pilot Flying J statement, via the Beacon Journal. “We’ve been committed from the beginning of this to doing the right thing, and that remains our commitment.”
UPDATE: According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Tom Reed, the league will not punish Haslam.
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