Jimmy Haslam

Pilot whitewash? No mention of fraud scandal in WSJ’s Jimmy Haslam feature

Wall Street Journal feature on Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam is titled “How America’s Largest Truck Stop Owner Stays on the Right Path.” If you assumed the article would mention how Pilot recently fell off that path in a big way, you’d be mistaken.

Federal agents raided Pilot’s Knoxville headquarters in 2013 in an investigation into diesel rebate fraud. Secretly recorded conversations revealed members of the sales team deriding trucking company clients as unsophisticated and lazy. The company’s former president and more than a dozen members of the sales team were convicted of federal charges and Pilot paid $85 million to settle with most of the defrauded customers along with a  a $92 million penalty to the government.

Jimmy Haslam, who owns the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, wasn’t charged in the case and claimed he didn’t know about the wrongdoing. In the aftermath of the fraud scandal, the Haslam family sold a major share in the privately held company to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (which will grow to an 80% stake in 2023).

In the Wall Street Journal “Personal Board of Directors” feature about executives’ closest advisers, Haslam lists:

— Former U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Chattanooga) a former college fraternity brother.

— Former Saks Inc. CEO R. Brad Martin, a member of the Pilot board since 1988.

— Former Walmart CEO Lee Scott, a Pilot board member since 2010.

— Steve Diggs, president and CEO of the Emerald Youth Foundation, a Christian nonprofit in Knoxville.