Pilot Flying J CEO answers questions about federal investigation

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The criminal investigation continued today as federal authorities look into the company owned by the family of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

Pilot Flying J is one of the largest privately owned companies in the country.

FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents locked down the Knoxville-based headquarters Monday and ordered employees out of the building as agents conducted their search.

Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam, who is also the principal owner of the Cleveland Browns, spoke to reporters Tuesday afternoon.

"We were obviously shocked by the events yesterday," said Haslam.

Haslam said the company is cooperating fully with the FBI and IRS.

Agents raided the headquarters Monday, serving four sealed warrants.

"A tough day for the company, there's no way around that," said Haslam.

Haslam said he does not know much about the investigation, and he does not know why the IRS is involved.

"There is no evasion of state or federal taxes," he said.

But Haslam did tell reporters he believes the investigation concerns a small number of trucking companies that claim they were owed rebates that were not paid. He said Pilot Flying J adamantly disputes those claims.

Haslam gave examples of how the rebate system works.

"If you'll buy 50,000 gallons per month, we'll agree to give you X amount of rebate, if you buy 100,000 you might get Y amount of rebate.  Now there are a lot of different formulas but that's one way in which it might work," explained Haslam.

Pilot Flying J deals with 3,300 trucking companies across the country. Haslam said he will not let down those customers, nor his employees.

"Pilot Flying J value number one is do the right thing all the time and we steadfastly believe we have done that," said Haslam.

Haslam said Pilot Flying J is cooperating fully with investigators.
According to Haslam, the inquiry involves the truck stop portion of the company only. Pilot Flying J has 480 truck stops across the U.S.

Governor Bill Haslam said he has not had a day-to-day role in managing the company in 15 years. He said he will concentrate on his role as governor while the investigation continues.

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