By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Updated at 2 p.m.
Acting swiftly to get the Pilot Flying J scandal behind him, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam has reached a settlement of class action lawsuits filed by trucking companies that were cheated of millions of dollars of promised diesel fuel rebates.
The rebate fraud is at the center of an ongoing federal investigation of Knoxville, TN-based Pilot Flying J.
The Class Settlement agreement was approved Tuesday by U.S. District Judge James M. Moody in federal court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
The settlement reportedly applies to more than 4,000 Pilot customers. One condition is that Haslam and Pilot Flying J assume “no admission of liability” for the rebate shortages. Pilot customers now will either agree to the settlement or pursue further litigation.
In a statement issued by Pilot, Haslam said the settlement ensures Pilot’s customers “will get every dollar they are owed, with interest, without protracted legal battles, time delays or costly legal expenses.”
Haslam added, “This is an unfortunate time for our customers and our company, but we remain committed to making things 100 percent right with our customers, to put systems in place to help ensure this does not happen again, and to re-earn our customers’ trust.”
According to reports, the total payout to customers, including 6 percent interest, legal fees and incentive awards to specific plaintiffs, could top $50 million.
Haslam, CEO of the truck-stop and diesel fuel company founded by his father, repeatedly has said he did nothing wrong and was unaware of the rebate scheme being investigated by the FBI and IRS.
Haslam also has told ESPN Cleveland that he has no intention of selling the Browns during or after the investigation.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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